Wednesday, November 28, 2012


"Can we do compliments for check in today?" Zach asked in first period.  "It feels like a compliment day."

I like it when students pay attention to the moods of the group, and I'm always glad to give them a chance to boost each other up.  Compliments for check in mean that you say something you admire about the people on either side of you.  Each person gets two compliments and although it takes a little training to pull them away from the superficial "I like your shirt"-types, it can be a real lift for moods and moral.

I didn't think I was especially in need of compliments myself - we're mid-musical auditions which, although time-consuming, are one of my favorite things to do if only because it means I get to see Rachel every day.  I really look forward to the days I get to see her.  So I might not have needed compliments, but two in particular were really good to hear.

From Victoria:  "You're, like, the most fun teacher who's roamed the earth (Scott, aside, "Literally!").  You're happy all the time and you really seem to like what you do, and your classes are really good."

I've been worried lately that I'm too grumpy.  I do feel like I've lost some of the energy and passion I had for teaching I had before.  Some of it is a tough year (personally that is.  This is certainly not nearly the toughest job-wise), some of it probably comes from settling - from doing a job for 11 years and for doing virtually the same job for 3.  It's doing yet another play with yet another group of kids with the token goofy nerd, the skater-slacker-clown who gets in trouble with every other teacher, the pair of always-cheerful and friendly girls, the quirky-clothes and really smart girl, the smart and really sociable boy, and all of the rest of the types that show up in every class.  I love them as characters, I love them as individuals, and I love them as a group; and I do try to express my affection.  I feel less joyful overall though, and I've worried that these kids aren't getting the full Waterhouse experience, such as that is.  Which is why it meant a lot to me to hear Victoria specifically contradict a lot of my degrading self-talk.

From Kate:  "I feel like you put in a lot of work for us that we don't see; that you do so much for us that sometimes you don't even have time for yourself.  I appreciate that, and I'm amazed that you do that and you put up with us and you don't flip out on us or lose it all the time."

It's nice to be acknowledged for the work unseen.  It's not just that I want my time to be recognized, although that is nice, but rather because a comment like that shows a student who can see a teacher as a human being and who recognizes what other people do, rather than taking such things for granted.  It's maturity and perspective and gratitude all rolled up and sincerely articulated by a teenager.  And isn't that extraordinary?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pastries, Planning, and Papercutting

As you may have gathered from my lack of activity here, it's been a busy couple of weeks.  Let me catch you up.

The field trip went really well.  Since we were leaving during that class' period, I scheduled our departure for much earlier than needed just in case we hit snow, traffic, or construction.  With none of the above interfering, we arrived 40 minutes early.  So I led the kids over a few blocks to Larimer Square and, after out two different coffee shops as well as going over the usual field trip perimeters, I turned them loose.

A couple of the kids followed me into the Market and they were impressed with the type of food offered at what I had described as a gourmet grocery store and bakery.  I picked up a large sticky bun covered with caramel and nuts and met my group at the appointed corner at the appointed time.

I tore off a piece of my sticky bun, then offered it to the kids.  After I explained what it was, a few of them tentatively broke off tiny pieces.  One girl was reluctant - "It's yours," she said.  "Why are you offering it to us?"

"I bought it to share," I explained.

One of the students who had come to New York with me reassured her, "This is what she does," he said.  "She brings us delicious and weird things."

Still, they were reluctant to eat it, so I handed the plate to one of them and then picked up speed to walk with a couple of students ahead of me.   I looked back about a minute later.  I imagine it went something like this:

(Hmm... the Youtube editing site I used doesn't seem to show up on Google Reader, so if you're on an RSS feed you may want to click through to my blog proper to see this oh-so-important 3-second clip.)

"It was really good," one of them said in explanation as he handed me the empty plate.

"Good!" I said as I tossed the plate into a nearby trashcan.

We arrived at the theater at the perfect time, and settled in to our seats to see a student matinee of The Giver.

The show was fine, but not remarkable.  They did work the gray/color changes into the sets, which I was glad for, and the use of projections for the transfers of memories was well done.  I'm not a huge fan of the book, though, so the story itself was about as appealing as I expected it to be for me.  The best part of the show for me came when, during the post-show Q&A, the host asked the audience to stand if this was the first live, professional play they had seen.  About 2/3 of the audience stood up.  Not a single one of my kids did.  Achievement unlocked!

Like usual, we grabbed lunch on 16th Street after the show, and arrived back at school with 30 minutes to spare for a post-show discussion before school let out and speech practice began.

The Home Meet was two days after that, and although I enjoyed the field trip, I did begrudge the loss of time during the day to get things organized.  I wound up working late most of that week getting things ready for the home meet, but I think it paid off.  My organizational needs were met (and, oh, you should have seen my portable-file-bins of organization!  There were labeled, alphabetized files with color-coded sticky notes of instructions to my T.A.s with folders not only coded according to the label itself but the justification of the tabs.... I let all of my office-supply-based-OCD-ness run rampant and I loved it), and the speech meet went beautifully.  We actually broke the 8-year-old record for end-time for full meets by a solid 25 minutes (whoo!), which prompted the coach from Roaring Fork to declare his love for me.  We actually released early enough that even after the clean-up and the drive down the mountain I still had time to meet up with Rachel and friends downtown for dinner at Mici's.

After two relatively normal days of school, I packed up the cat and headed to Junction Tuesday night for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Rachel, Ben, Jack, Andy, Jenn, and their respective dogs all came down Wednesday evening, and Grandma Cook flew over from Salt Lake on Thursday.  It was a low-key holiday with a lot of cooking, crafting, and merriment.  Although I did a little work on my felt ornaments, I spent a lot of time creating a literary art piece per my speech class goal project for this semester.  I wanted to teach myself scherenschnitte and create some literary-based art for the alcove above my fireplace.  Here's the finished-but-not-framed-or-matted product:

My brother could name the book.  Can you?

The plan is to complete three more, each referencing a key book from my childhood reading, but with auditions for the musical starting tomorrow and a play in two weeks, I'll have to put this new hobby on a brief hiatus.  Perhaps over Christmas I can crack out the Exacto knives again.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Waterhouse Thanksgiving

Ben: We should all go outside for the family football game before dinner!

Everyone: (Laughs, eats more cheese)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Again, and again, and again, and again

Remember how just a few weeks ago I was bemoaning the insanity of scheduling an overnight meet the same week as a play?

Apparently I didn't because right now I'm in the midst of planning for an all-day drama field trip the same week I'm hosting our home speech meet.

And, naturally, both sets of circumstances are followed by my teaching on Sunday.

I'm on the right path for both the field trip and the speech meet.  I just need to write sub plans, make arrangements for the kids who are ineligible for the field trip due to grades, and establish alternate drama kids to take the tickets of those that are failing.  None of this would be a big deal if I wasn't also making arrangements for an all-day speech meet for 10 schools, 100 kids, and 40-some-odd judges.

Thank goodness for Thanksgiving - I need to ramp up for the week after so I can run musical auditions and prep for the speech pentathalon at Chatfield.

P.S.  I had an email from the Fulbright people today verifying that my application was received and complete.  The next step is a phone interview sometime between late November and mid-December.  I am curious to see how that's going to fit into my schedule.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On the Plane

And, just like that, I'm homeward bound. Mom and Dad are staying a few more days for their conference, but alas, I have a speech meet to host. Farewell, 65-degree Chicago; hello, 20-degree Denver!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Ghiradelli's and a scenic (and warm!) walk back to the hotel.



I picked this restaurant out of the online Michelin list largely because of 1) it's proximity to the theater and 2) the tasting menus listed online.

Sadly, when we arrived we discovered they no longer offered the tasting menus. Dashed were my hopes of my parents experiencing wave after wave of food appearing like magic at your table!

Fortunately, the food was still delicious and the service attentive. Highlights included the pate, my steak, and the creme brûlée/chocolate mousse combination.

Here are the dishes in random order. I'll come back and reorder/label them when I'm back on a real computer.

Napping on the L


Since our dinner reservations are in a few hours, we grabbed just a quick bite of pad Thai and salad with peanut dressing at a Thai noodle house in Oak Park.

And a Bonus Literary Stop

Oak Park - Lloyd Wright Homes


We ventured out as the rain let up, but had to do some hopping to get to the sidewalks.

God's Wrath!

Just as we were leaving, the storm kicked into high gear - booming thunder, brilliant lightning, and rain/hail pouring down. We might enjoy the Unity architecture for a bit longer....

An Anti-Grammatical Hymn?

(Look at the author)

Oak Park - Unity Temple

We decided to take the L out of town to tour some Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. After dropping by the visitor's center, we made our way to the Unity Temple.

I really liked this design for a church. I'm a fan of Lloyd Wright's style anyway - the geometric cleanliness and upward sweep - but seeing it in a house of worship reminded me of the Islamic principle of worshiping God in a place that celebrates His creations without actual images. Like Taylor Mali says, “How can you study geometry and not believe in a god? A god of perfect points and planes, surrounded by angels and angles of all different degrees."

(A Reminder - my mobile blogger app uploads photos in random order. Hardly appropriate for a Lloyd Wright building, but try to bear with it anyway.)

Oak Park!

Dad Blending in on the L

A Room with a View

My parents pick nice hotels. :)
View south
View north