Friday, April 18, 2014

Sound Off: 32 Things You Learn Growing Up

I always think of the best stories when reading the numbered lists.  It may not be a chronological (or in any way logical) approach to cataloguing my personal history, but it's fun!

[Read the original viral post here]

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

WRONG!  Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when I realize Kirk has been baiting me all along.  Well, probably not all along.  But as soon as he realizes he's wrong, he continues to argue his point until I realize he's already accepted his wrongness and just continued on to get me riled up.  And it works.  Every. Time.

4. There is a great need for a sarcasm font.

Not only that, but there needs to be a universally acceptable way to type emphasis that works across all platforms (texting, blogging, Facebook).  My favorites include:

  • *This* is a really important word.  (or it's similar buddy: This is a *really important word.)
  • Please place the emphasis /here/.
7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5.  I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

I've been thinking (ever since Samsung updated my GPS voice to what I can only describe as the new slutty voice) that I might like to have my GPS narrated by a little kid voice, complete with the preschool "w" for "r" substitution.  After phwee mi-ows, tuwn wight.  I don't know.  It would either be really annoying or really make my day.  :)

9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

Right?!  Although I have to say that 2014:The Year of Trying to Be Bored is going swimmingly.  Although I am nowhere near bored, I am far more rested than I've been a good long while.

10. Bad decisions make good stories.

Welcome to BoyTrapped.

11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

I wish!  I call that moment 5:30 pm, when I realize I am already late for dinner {again} and decide to pack up to go home.  There is, however, that moment when I know that there is no physical way that I can have everything I had planned ready for the day.  I call that moment 7:50 am when students start coming into the room.  

12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray?  I don't want to have to restart my collection... again.

Two thoughts: A) I don't buy movies.  I really don't like watching them again.  So this really isn't that big of a deal to me.  B) I think it is funny that my parents didn't purchase their first color television, VHS player, or DVD player.  In each case, my grandparents (Casdorph) decided my parents were woefully behind the times and gifted them one.  So, I would be on board for agreeing that whatever comes next, my parents should buy for me.  :)

13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.

This one reminds me of two things:

I vividly recall our old computer desk that loomed ominously at the top of the stairs on the loft.  To me, it loomed, because computers weren't fun yet.  The computer meant I had some horrid assignment that had to be - *gasp* - typed.  I actually recall the world pre-windows, when I had to type in .dos commands to get the computer to do what it was supposed to do.  But even more vividly I recall the power strip that was mounted on the left of the space between the desk's drawers.  And I remember the distinct feeling of realizing I had yet again bumped its power toggle with my knee.  

You see, I had have a habit of sitting what we could still call "indian style," even when I'm sitting on a chair.  The desk's accompanying chair swiveled, as most office chairs do, and the combined placement of my left knee with the unfortunate swivel function meant I lost many a paper (because pre-Windows certainly meant pre-auto-backup).

Secondly, it reminds me of the only paper I ever wrote for Kirk.  We were engaged, and he was attending the University of Utah.  He called me, clearly upset, and explained the circumstances leading up to the paper he'd just spent hours writing being somehow gone.  When he stated that he had no intentions of re-writing it and that he'd just have to take the grade, I drove to his house and got to work.  He gave me lots of good information to use in his paper about the unfairness of Title IX.  And I wrote.  We both still remember pieces of my epic introduction (quoting Henry David Thoreau and everything).  And I am proud to say it was the only paper I ever wrote for him.

14. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this - ever.

In my world, it simply means "I will never buy this."  The only things not washable in our house are the suits.

17. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

Remember when "keeping" numbers meant memorizing them?  I used to have a head full of them!

My old house: 966-2035
My aunt's number: 280-1009
My other aunt's number: 254-2721
Emilee's house number: 572-0029
Brett's home number: something-something-something 2442?? (That one's getting hazy!)
But there used to be tons of them floating around in there!  JJ's cell number: 599-2761 is probably the last one I memorized, somewhere around 2002.

Wanna know Michelle's number?  Beats me.  But it's in my cell phone!

20. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

I'd be more interested in a "Please read my mind option."  I'm pretty sure we're headed that way.  My phone seems to have identified where I work without me telling it so, and it likes to tell me how long to expect my commute to be whenever I check my phone.  But I still want more.  How about the second that a spicy bacon chicken sandwich crosses my mind, GPS will navigate me to the nearest McDonalds?  

21. Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the heck was going on when I first saw it.

While this is true, especially of old animated films like Bambi, I more frequently wonder why others highly esteem the movies from their childhoods.  I have a pretty solid theory that there are two types of people: those who watched Labyrinth as a child and loved it, and those who watched Labyrinth as an adult and hated it.  If you wondered, I belong to the "hated it" camp.

Then there's the time my dad recommended that Kirk and I watch The Birds.  I get that it was horrifyingly amazing in its time.  But now it's just horrifyingly boring.


23. The only time I look forward to a red light is when I'm trying to finish a text.

Only marginally related to the statement above: I always get stopped at red lights.  I know a lot of people say that.  But for me it really is true.  I don't even have to be driving; just riding along with Kirk means he will get stopped at all the lights.  If we're both driving from somewhere and he's driving a head of me, he goes through while I get stopped.  If I'm in front, we both get stopped.  It's so bad that sometimes Kirk threatens to make me walk so he can get places on time.

26. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front.  Stay strong, brothers and sisters!

Don't call me a jerk!  Sometimes the person who is cutting is not a jerk - just kind of bad at realizing they needed to have changed lanes.  Or sometimes the person tried to get over sooner, but the "stay strong" band started early.  I love the feeling of charity when I let one person in front of me, jerk or not.

29. There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

An adult dilemma: to lean or not to lean.  As a kid, I was always frustrated when adults told me not to lean my chair back.  Why not?!  Was it really such a big deal?  And it is really comfortable.  Now, as an adult, I see the reasons.  It damages the wall's paint.  It is hard on the chairs.  And I mostly think "Blah, blah, blah..." but then I still have a really hard time feeling okay about leaning my chair back.  First world problems, right?

Well, that's it until I see another viral list that makes me want to share random stories!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Common Core Math: Did You Know?

Did you know that the Common Core (or the Utah Core Standards as our state's version is called) is neither a complete curriculum* nor a methodology?   It is simply a set of standards.  The Utah Core Standards do not tell teachers how to instruct or how to assess.  It just outlines stuff kids are supposed to know.  Did you realize that the how is left up to the districts, the schools, and the classroom teacher?

***I bet many people reading this DID know all of that!***

* "Curriculum typically refers to the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which includes the learning standards or learning objectives they are expected to meet; the units and lessons that teachers teach; the assignments and projects given to students; the books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course; and the tests, assessments, and other methods used to evaluate student learning."

I laugh a little when I see things like this, and I wonder if the person ranting has read the standards.  Here is an overview from fifth grade.

Grade 5 Overview (http://www.uen.org/core/core.do?courseNum=5150)

Operations and Algebraic Thinking
Write and interpret numerical expressions.
Analyze patterns and relationships.

Number and Operations in Base Ten
Understand the place value system.
Perform operations with multi-digit whole numbers and with decimals to hundredths.

Number and Operations—Fractions
Use equivalent fractions as a strategy to add and subtract fractions.
Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication and division to multiply and divide
fractions.

Measurement and Data
Convert like measurement units within a given measurement system.
Represent and interpret data.
Geometric measurement: Understand concepts of volume and relate volume to multiplication and
to addition.

Geometry
Graph points on the coordinate plane to solve real world and mathematical problems.
Classify two-dimensional figures into categories based on their properties.

Sure, I have seen some really different stuff out there as far as methodology goes.  One of my classmates demonstrated this on the board during my Master's program, and I thought, "WHAT??"  Not gonna lie - I don't get it.


Many parents are confused or concerned by the "new math."  I am too.  What we learned as "borrowing" is now called "regrouping," and other changes in the vocabulary of math can leave us all feeling a bit like we don't know how to help our kids.  

For example, the 2nd grade standards ask students to: 

"7. Add and subtract within 1000, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and sub- traction; relate the strategy to a written method. Understand that in adding or subtracting three-digit numbers, one adds or subtracts hundreds and hundreds, tens and tens, ones and ones; and sometimes it is necessary to compose or decompose tens or hundreds."  

It sounds overwhelming, but if you look closely at the language of the standards, there are words like "or."  The standard basically says, "Students should be able to add and subtract and should have some clue of what they are actually doing."  I personally see no harm in that.

As for the complicated methods of multiplication, here's what the 5th grade standards actually say:

"5. Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm."

Which means "new math" is simply an alternative.  An extra step for the kids who might need it.

So what can you do if your student brings home math worksheets that you don't understand (or understand completely and think are pointless)?

1. Be patient.  Maybe this is just an alternate strategy leading up to the standard algorithm.

2. Learn something new.  It's not easy to replace the old vocabulary, but eventually "regrouping" will just roll of your tongue.

3. Read the Utah Core Standards.  Do the standards for your student's grade level mandate this new form of calculation?  If the answer is yes, feel free to continue posting pictures of receipts on Facebook and blaming the Core.

4. If you don't see anything about lattice multiplication, take a closer look at the math curriculum your district or school is using.  Complain to the district if you think their chosen math books aren't the best.

5. Take advantage of the wide variety of choices currently available in education.  If you don't like the math your school teaches, find some place that you agree with.

6. Take a closer look at the assessment portion.  Maybe your state's testing is what is driving the teachers to teach this way.  In many cases, it is the standardized testing, NOT the Common Core Standards that are redirecting education.  When the tests require methods other than the standard algorithm, teachers have no choice but to include the alternate methods in their instruction.  {If you want to know what Utah's new SAGE adaptive testing looks like, check it out here: sageportal.org.  I highly recommend taking one of the math training tests.  I am actually pretty excited about the new method of math assessment because I think it tests math thinking not just computation skills.  Plus, for math geeks like me, it feels kind of like a game!}  If the asssessment is the part you disagree with, then complain loudly about that!

I'm not giving support for or against the Utah Core Standards.  I think there are pros and cons, and that's a discussion for another day.  I'm not an advocate for "new math" and all the alternate strategies for most students.  I've made decisions regarding my kids' education that reflects my opinions accordingly.  I'm also not suggesting that parents shouldn't speak up when they see things happening that they disagree with.  I'm just not wild about the generalizations and overstatements that weaken otherwise strong arguments.  Read the standards.  Check out the assessments.  Research the methodologies.  Investigate different math books.  And then discuss away!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

7.08493

Today, Alex turned the big:

Seven and Eight Hundredths!!

We didn't really do anything big to celebrate, so I guess I'll just post the pictures from when he turned seven.

He was pretty excited when he saw an invitation to a party on March 12th.  He was significantly less excited and actually pretty annoyed when I told him it wasn't a party for him, and that Mom and Aunt Michelle would be going to a birthday party without him on his birthday.  

To lessen the sting, I made special pancakes to start his day.  Everyone at X pancakes, and Adam and I sang to him before school.


We waited until the weekend to have a proper celebration, inviting everyone over for the traditional cake and ice cream.  He got to pick his own cake, and he really challenged me this time!

Remembering that Adam's Cyrpus request ended up getting him a pirate character for Disney Infinity, Alex chose a cake that would easily lend itself to the figure he had his eye on.  He selected a robot from The Incredibles, which turned out to be a lot of fun.  It was tricky to figure out how to do the tentacles, but I was very pleased with my last-minute idea.


 However, thanks to Grandma Tess, my super awesome cake wasn't even the highlight of the night.  Alex finally got his Birthday Coupon!  The kids look forward to getting one of these for their birthday, and this one is Alex's first.  It means he gets to sleep over at Grandma's and choose the whole next day's activities.  Now he's just counting down until summer when Grandma prefers to have the coupons redeemed.


It seems like so much less of a big deal compared to an important milestone like 7.08493, but Alex's seventh birthday was pretty awesome!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Stupid Hummingbirds

Really SUPER awesome days to be a music teacher:

1st Grade: Jazz Unit, especially the day I teach about the blues using a song called "The Time Out Blues" and of course, the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese jingle.

3rd Grade: Tie between the day we blow into sprinkler pipes as though they are brass instruments and the day we use combs and wax paper to learn about reeds.

4th Grade: The whole first quarter when we are learning the Armed Forces Medley with actions.

5th Grade: Theme and variations on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" using chimes.

6th Grade: When I teach a medley from Joseph...Dreamcoat and call it an oratorio.

THE BEST DAY OF THE ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR:

2nd Grade: Stupid Hummingbird Day

Let me explain.

When I was little, I thought my Grandpa Casdorph hung the moon.  Truth be told, I'm still pretty sure it may have happened that way.  When I reflect on a childhood peppered with visits to and from Arizona, there are a few recurring memories that stand out in my mind.

1. The Dog-Eared Braids

A common Casdorph-girl hairstyle was two braided pigtails, looped back up to form dog ears on each side of our heads.  I imagine my mom must have found this style particularly good for 12 hours of travel, because I seemed to frequently sport it upon arrival in Arizona.  Grandpa would take one look at me, and then playfully threaten to hang me by those loops on a wall in the closet.

2. The Jump / Don't Jump

Grandpa would place his hands on the hips of any given grandchild and count to three.  On the third count, the trained grandchild knew to jump and, with grandpa's assistance, would jump several feet in the air.  Without fail, however, on my count of three, Grandpa would always hold me down.  Instead of a soaring jump, my turn generally resulted in feigned indignation and giggles.

3. Stupid Hummingbird Stories

These I remember occurring more frequently in Utah when Grandma and Grandpa would come for visits.  We three girls would gather on Grandpa's lap or near his feet to hear our favorite stories: Stupid Hummingbird Stories.  The formula was always the same.  Three girls headed off into the woods, generally despite some sort of warning from well-meaning adults.  Coincidentally, these girls were always named Andrea, Lisa, and Michelle, and they always got into interesting predicaments.

We loved hearing the stories unfold as each of our parallel characters participated in the dialogue and decision making.  In fact, it was only the dialogue and decisions that ever changed; the conflict remained constant: to find the source of the melody rising from somewhere in the woods.  (This would work so much better if you could hear me humming the tune of "Clementine."  Please insert your own humming here.  Hm hm hm hm.... Hm hm hm hm....)

Likewise, the resolutions were always predictable.  In the end, the three girls found a hummingbird, too stupid to know the words.  To this day, I cannot hear the song "Clementine" without fondly recalling that stupid hummingbird.

At NPA, there is a required list of songs that each grade level learns.  Many of the songs are several hundred years old and represent the musical history from many countries.  I teach standards like "Danny Boy," "Auld Lang Syne," and "The Yellow Rose of Texas."  Some of the songs correspond with lessons they are learning in history.  Others are chosen for having appropriate ranges and melodies for a particular grade.  In each case, I feel proud to be intentionally passing along this musical heritage.

When I teach "I Love the Mountains" to fourth grade or "Hey Ho" to third grade, I remember the long drives to Arizona or Utah during which my mom taught us the songs she'd been taught by her mom.  This history of music is one that can only be taught orally, and I get to excited to be the one that helps preserve this music for another 100 years!

But when I teach "Clementine," to the second grade each year, I get to pass on a totally different legacy.  I'm betting it's not the thing my Grandpa will hope to be remembered for, but as I've watched others pass on from this life, I have realized that we don't always get to choose our legacy.  I don't expect my grandpa to be going anywhere soon, but someday when I have to mourn the loss of an incredible man, I will be glad to know that a small piece of him lives on in something as silly as a stupid hummingbird story.

Plus, the kids LOVE it!  I wait in anticipation as they file in and take their seats.  I pull up a chair and quietly start, "Once upon a time."

There's usually a few giggles.  This isn't a normal day in music!

But as I continue on into an on-the-spot stupid hummingbird story, weaving students one-by-one into the story, giving them dialogue and pivotal decisions, silly moments and triumphs, the room falls silent.

It is the quietest 10 minutes of the entire school year.

This year's Arc de Triomphe was the part of the story that involved each student adding onto either the top or bottom of a student-stack as they tried to reach the top boughs of the tree.  As each student climbed, the others hugged the tree for dear life. All the while, the humming got louder!  (Insert humming again...)

And then as the last student finally reached the top, she was able to see the source of the sound: a stupid hummingbird who didn't know the words!

By this point, I've hummed the melody so many times that the students already know it, and we just add words.  (We want to be smarter than that hummingbird, right?!)

I've taught "Clementine" to two classes each year for four years.  That's about 200 students who've played a special part in their own Stupid Hummingbird story.

There are a lot of great moments as a music teacher at NPA.  But Stupid Hummingbird Day just cannot be topped.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Closet Rap Fan

This is getting to be less and less of a secret, but I'm ready to openly admit it:

I'm a closet rap fan.

Well, that's not entirely true.  More accurately, I am a closet Eminem fan.  One devout enough to have chosen this blog's title as an homage to one of my favorite tracks, "Cleanin' Out My Closet."

And one devout enough who, when at the late night insistence of Amy and Janene and hyped up on Zumba, will choose one of her favorites ("White America"), look it up on YouTube and rap along.

...So many lives I
Touch, so much anger aimed, in no particular direction, just sprays and sprays, and straight
Through your radio waves it plays and plays, 'till it stays stuck in your head for days and
Days, who would of thought, standing in this mirror bleachin' my hair, with some peroxide,
Reaching for a t-shirt to wear, that I would catapult to the forefront of rap like this, how
Could I predict my words would have an impact like this, I must've struck a chord, with somebody
Up in the office, cause congress keeps telling me I ain't causin' nuthin' but problems, and now
They're sayin' I'm in trouble with the government, I'm lovin' it...

Whenever I start explaining the virtues of Eminem (in spite of the language, which is why I usually try to listen edited), the words start tumbling out of my mouth faster than I can organize them - a pretty classic tell of Andrea's geek-dom.

First, in my opinion, Eminem is the best poet and lyricist to have graced this good earth.  His vocabulary (which really does include more than just expletives) and unparalleled musicality combine to string words together in sequences at which I can only marvel.

Then there's the sheer speed. I talk all sorts of fast, but my speed can't even hold a candle to Eminem's seemingly effortless cadence.  Yet, I can understand pretty much every word.  That diction!

Generally at this point in the diatribe, I move on to Eminem's subject matter.  Sure, he's got some disrespectful-to-women tracks characteristic of his genre, but the majority of the time, he's more of a political columnist.  He has a lot of interesting opinions to share which, whether I agree or disagree, I can't help but enjoy listening to.  When he's not talking politics or the state-of-the-union, he's sharing the details of his personal life.  Just putting it all out there in what seems to me to be the way he prefers to work out his issues.  It just happens to make him money.

Kirk and I recently stopped mid-conversation as we realized a new Eminem song was on the radio.  I listened carefully (and admittedly quickly Googled the lyrics to follow along because I didn't want to miss anything!) In this recent track, he referred to a song he'd written earlier in his career, "Cleaning Out My Closet," in which he expressed some pretty negative feelings about his mom.  That song was from 2002.  Now, 12 years later, he has evolved as a human and has more to say about his relationship.

[Verse 1]
I went in headfirst, never thinking about who what I said hurt
In what verse, my mom probably got it the worst, the brunt of it
But as stubborn as we are, did I take it too far, "Cleaning Out My Closet"
And all them other songs, but regardless I don't hate you
Cause ma, you're still beautiful to me, cause you're my mom
[Verse 2]
Cause to this day we remain estranged and I hate it though
Cause you ain't even get to witness your grandbabies grow
But I'm sorry momma for "Cleaning Out My Closet," at the time I was angry
Rightfully, maybe so, never meant that far to take it though
Cause, now I know it's not your fault and I'm not making jokes
That song I'll no longer play at shows and I cringe every time it's on the radio

And although one has only met their grandma, once you pulled up
In our drive one night, as we were leaving to get some hamburgers
Me, her and Nate, we introduced you, hugged you
And as you left I had this overwhelming sadness
Come over me as we pulled off to go our separate paths
And I saw your headlights as I looked back and
I'm mad I didn't get the chance to thank you for being my mom and my dad...
...I'll always love you from afar cause you're my momma

Yeah, I can't be a closet Eminem fan anymore.   I wish I was bold enough to share real moments about hamburgers and regrets and struggle with myself as I try to defend my own pain without hurting others in the process.  I think the man is a genius.

Of course, I can't recommend that you actually listen to the song.  I pasted parts that didn't have any swearing, but there's plenty in the rest of the song.  So instead, I'll post what reminded me of this in the first place:

I have to say that for educational rap, it's not half bad!  (And my 5th graders got me to rap today and then subsequently mocked me.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Good Kind of Weird

I'd had to drag the kids out of their beds 40 minutes earlier than usual in order to arrive early to work two days in a row.  That meant my usual 6:20 announcement to hustle out of bed had been moved to 5:40 a.m., awfully early for my two elementary school kiddos.  So I wasn't at all surprised when on the evening of the second long day as I was tucking the kids in for the night, Alex inquired, "Mom, are you going to get us up early tomorrow?"

I received a surprising reply to my chipper, "Nope."

"Awww..." both boys whined in unison.

It turns out they quite enjoyed the extra time before school started, because it meant they could fit in a chess match before splitting up to go their assigned classes.

Yeah, you read it right.  My seven and nine year old want to get up at 5:40 a.m. so they have time to play chess before going to class.

They did not get this from me.  Rather it is a combination of influences including Dad, Uncle Skye, and the long anticipated Navigator Pointe Academy after school chess club, which students can join in third grade.

Each Wednesday for six weeks, Adam "versed" (as he calls it) students of varying ages, meeting with varying degrees of success.  Some weeks he reported, "I didn't lose..." before admitting that he didn't win, either.  Other weeks, he gushed about having beat a junior high kid!  Now that chess is over, the only ready opponent is little brother.

They play every chance they get, including a game by fading daylight when dad took over the t.v. to watch the Priesthood Session of General Conference.  I just had to stop to take a picture as I headed out the door to go to a show with Arlee.


Though the consecutive days of arriving early happened last week, the boys still insist on the earlier departure time to make time for their game.  It's actually been pretty great to have an additional 30-45 minutes at school each morning to get ready and focused for the day!  Even better, though, has been the wiggle room that has made me less stressed to get to school on time.  If we take an extra 10 minutes, it just means 10 minutes less for chess.


I'm not going to lie.  I think it's weird.  I'm pretty sure I'm raising geeks.

But I'm certain it's a good kind of weird.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Conference Notebook

I tried a new {very successful} method of taking notes during General Conference today.  I feel like I listened more effectively than I ever have before, and I have main ideas to reflect on later.  Here's the first of what will likely be many Conference Notebooks.