Tuesday, July 28, 2009

FINALLY! A New Post!

Well, it's been a while, I know, but here I am at long last, with enough time to sit down and concentrate on this blog-o-mine. Where to begin. . . I'll go backwards.

Yesterday I returned from a wonderful weekend with Sally, visiting friends of hers at the Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes, Vermont. Our host was Mary Maloney, a classmate of Sally's at Stoneleigh-Burnham, whose family started the Basin Harbor Club ye
ars ago. It is now one of the most popular little family resorts on Lake Champlain. Sailing, boating, swimming, golf, tennis, bicycling, jacket and tie dinners in the beautiful lodge- it's got it all. Mary and John's house sits on the water at the far end of the golf course (we had to
literally drive right through the course every time we went to her house!). You're welcome to see pictures at


One of the things that made the weekend even more enjoyable was the fact that we were traveling in my new MINI,
which I picked up on Tuesday. It drives like a dream and has all kinds of cute bells and whistles to keep a gadget freak
like me happy for hours.

The week before, I was in Greenfield again, helping Sally to volunteer at the Green River festival, a mini Woodstock held on the grounds of the Greenfield Community College. It was lots of fun, full of great music and hundreds (thousands?) of people reliving their sixties. Old friends Margo (Ayres) and Tom Smith (himself an accomplished folk singer) drove from Boston to join us, which made the experience even more fun.

Those are the highlights of my summer so far, aside from working in the yard, painting the garage, and getting bids for siding the house. On rainy days I've gone into schoo
l to try and clean up my classroom (I got a warning from the head of maintenance at Hamden Hall that the fire warden was not pleased with the amount of "clutter" in my room.) Mexico's a no go- there was the media coverage of all the narco-trafficking wars along the border in the fall, the drop in the economy in the winter, and the swine flu in the spring; all of these left parents with trepidation about sending their sons and daughters south of the border (although neither the narcotrafficking nor the swine flu have effected anything in SMA. The economy HAS had an effect on tourism in general and San Miguel has not been immune from that). I pine daily about formy friends in San Miguel; I'm working on next year early this year.

Sally's arriving tonight with a colleague from Stoneleigh to spend the night before I drive them to Newark Airport tomorrow morning, on their way to Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and China! The trip will include visiting alumnae, meeting admissions counselors, meeting parents of present and past Stoneleigh students, and making a pitch for development. Sally found out yesterday that her visa into China was denied, so they're going to have to make a mad dash to the US Embassy in Japan as soon as they arrive. Hope they can get it settled, since they people in China are VERY excited about having Sally come to visit.

<-----(Here are Sally and Andy Patt at Newark on July 29th)

That's all for now. Will TRY to be more communicative with all the free time I have.

Friday, April 24, 2009

We spoke only in Spanish, as did they (although two of them tried out a little English with us).  It was great fun and we've already discussed ways we can improve the process next time.  We will be video conferencing with other kids in San Miguel 5 more times between now and June.  Very exciting! 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

     I can't believe I haven't posted anything since January, but that's just what's happened.  I guess I've been having fun, because time certainly has flown.  Where has it gone?  My daily routine continues to consist of getting up at 5:30, showering, getting dressed, making coffee, fixing a quick bowl of oatmeal, brushing my teeth, then hopping in the MINI, usually arriving at school by 7:30, where I either get ready for the day or meet with students who need extra help.  Then the fun / challenge begins.
     The facts of education are still the same;  students who pay attention, really do their homework and participate do well, those who don't, don't.  This is what I call a "Duhism" (DUH!)  Making kids realize this truism and do something about it is the real challenge.   I feel like I'm making some progress at least some of the time; helping a few who haven't been very invested in doing well to realize that a) it isn't all about grades and b) there is something tangible to gain from working consistently on homework and participating actively in class.  
     I continue to try and gain the trust and share in the success of some students who up until now haven't really "gotten it."  I'm not always successful, of course,  but I am often enough for me to continue to love what I do and to want to keep doing it.  It's those boys and girls "at the bottom of the barrel" who cause me to keep doing that daily routine, hoping each day that I might make a breakthrough with one of them.   (Doesn't this sound like a script for every failed tv show about teaching?)
     What else makes work fun and interesting?  Keeping fresh, trying new things; like beginning classes with relaxing yoga exercises.  This can really help to get kids focused and rids the class of a lot of the social / emotional "static" they can bring in the door.  (This is especially useful first period in the morning).  I've gotten interested in Skype and have luckily been able to make contact with some people in San Miguel de Allende - my favorite place in the world - who are organizing four Skype sessions with a group of my students through the Public Library in San Miguel!   I'm thrilled by the prospect and my students are very excited, as are the kids in San Miguel de Allende.  Video pen pals have always been a dream of mine, and now I have the chance to make it a reality.
     Salt & Pepper continues to be a joy.  We're singing at Choate's Alumni Day Memorial Service May 16th  and have two other engagements coming up in West Chester, NY and the Regina Lourdes Abbey in Bethlehem, Ct., in addition to a benefit concert at the church where we rehearse on May 30th.
     Sally and I continue to see each other as much as possible, and we were lucky enough to be able to spend five days together in San Diego during the first week of my spring vacation and the last week of hers.  (She had to be out there anyway for alumnae/development work).  It was wonderful just spending time together, reading, watching movies, taking walks, driving up into the wine country.  We continue to believe that, although it's not the ideal situation, it is what it is, and we're doing pretty well with it. 
     So there it is.  Life goes on at its petty pace (who said that?) and  in spite of its seeming monotony, it still is exciting. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Salt & Pepper Sing at Hamden Hall

     To kick off Black History month, the Hamden Hall Diversity Committee invited the Salt & Pepper Gospel Singers to give a concert during the upper school assembly on Friday, January 30th.  With only one soprano, two altos, and four tenors, the group brought the audience to its feet for a standing ovation and an encore at the end of the 45 minute concert.  

Saturday, January 24, 2009

     Well, we did get to break our faculty meetings early enough to see the pre-inauguration festivities, including Aretha, Yo-Yo, and others.  Even though the John Williams piece was "Millie Vanilla'd," it was still spectacular, and I did snivel all the way through it, just the way I had thought I would.  The entire faculty broke out in applause at various parts of the ceremony, lending to the spirit of community and unity alluded to in Obama's speech.  Oh happy day!
     Perhaps it's just my imagination, but I've sensed a reaction to the inauguration that is palpable in the "outside world" as well as within our small school community.  People for whom I hold a door open, for instance, seem to be truly grateful and friendly when they say, "Thank you." and cars at the corner seem to let someone turn left before they cross the intersection.  Little things I've noticed- probably just my heightened sense of a need for us all to come together before the storm, but it is out there.  I hope it stays and grows.
     Saw "Slumdog Millionaire" last night.  In spite of a ludicrously implausible plot, the movie sucked me right in and the characters took hold of me.  I hope it gets as many Oscars as it can; it's a totally original, unique and wonderfully crafted piece of filmmaking.  I may go and see "Frost-Nixon" tonight.  This afternoon I have to video a girls' varsity basketball game at 2:30 and then get my assignments ready for next week, in addition to finishing up my 3rd and 4th grade Spanish comments.
     Sally's busy getting introduced to alumnae in Sarasota and Delray Beach today and tomorrow.  I'm watching the thermometer drop steadily toward freezing again, waiting for the weekend Times to be delivered.  As Mel Blanc would say, "Yib-yibadee-That's all, folks!"

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Jr. Day

It's been a little over a week since I last "blogged" (that must be a word now- but is it in Webster's??)  Exams have come and gone, corrections have been done, and - as of today - grades and comments for about 60 Spanish students have been written and will be downloaded on the school's server tomorrow morning before faculty meetings.   This year I used a test generator that comes with the Spanish text, rather than giving the same exam that Armando Perez and I have used with revisions for the last three or four years.   On the one hand, it's a teacher's dream; you simply chose the chapter and topic you want to be tested and it spits out questions in a variety of formats from which to chose (multiple choice, true/false, short answer, etc.)  Then you edit any of the questions to suit your own needs.  The only part about it that scares me a little is that it's a bit too Orwellian.  (I have to admit, though, that the answer sheet that is spit out at the end sure makes correcting ten or eleven pages of exams a lot more palatable!)

Sally drove down Saturday afternoon, took a well-deserved nap, then we dined with Tom & Canny Iampietro, former teachers at Stoneleigh, now teaching at Hamden Hall and Hopkins respectively.  On Sunday, we took time to read the Times, then Sally's business partner at EDUInnovations came over to discuss plans for their Beginning Administrator's Institute at Lawrenceville, N.J. in June.  Soon the snow began and Sally had to return to SBS (Monday was an Open House).  Being in a day school, I have MLK Jr. Day off, and I've spent it finishing up comments and grades while listening to Pandora.com (if you haven't tried it, DO- it's GREAT!)

Though it is still somewhat of a trial, Sally and I continue to agree that our living an hour and a half apart isn't what we'd prefer, but "it is what it is," and there isn't much that can be done about it for the foreseeable future.  I firmly believe that she belongs at SBS at this time in her and the school's lives, and it isn't a tremendous sacrifice on my part for her to be able to do the best job she can do for the school she loves so much.  (Among my greatest sacrifices are having to make the bed alone in the morning, vacuum and dust the house every once in a while, and cook my own dinner. . .)  I support what Sally's doing and look forward to the day when the school is situated well enough to be passed on to the next Head.  

Speaking of transitions, I am so excited about tomorrow's inauguration!  I met last Friday with a drama teacher at Hamden Hall to discuss ways we could get the tv signal projected on the big screen in the theater during the inauguration.  While I was waiting to get instructions from him, Charlie has made all the connections, bless his heart.  Now all I have to do is convince the powers-that-be to break for lunch early enough tomorrow during faculty meetings for us all to see not only the swearing in ceremony, but also the singing by Aretha Franklin, music by Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman & others before the oath of office.  This IS a once-in-a-lifetime experience, after all. . . We can finish the faculty meeting a little later, no?

I plan to invoke the spirit of my father ( a notoriously emotional person) while watching tomorrow's ceremonies as I  whimper, snivel, and cry uncontrollably.  Just thinking about it makes me want to break out the Kleenex.  I pray for everything to go as planned tomorrow and for our President to be able to help us all to bring our nation back together again!  

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Jan 10, 2009

Well,  I said I probably wouldn't post something everyday, and I haven't.  Sorry 'bout that.  Last week included a professional day, a snowday, and three (count 'em, three!) days of classes, during which I attempted to review an entire term's work with my 7th and 8th graders before next week.  There's one more day of review, a day of Listening Tests, then the exams.  (Of course, there's another snowstorm predicted for Wednesday, so it may a week of ONE day of classes)!  I'm definitely not in favor of this year's schedule (of having semester exams one week after winter vacation, with no tests or quizzes allowed during that time).  I (and, it appears, most of the rest of the faculty) hope that next year's calendar will be more educationally sound.
Unfortunately, the snowstorm today (5-10 inches predicted) has meant that Sally isn't able to come down here for the day, as we had hoped.  Instead, she'll stay at SBS, attending the horse show and preparing for next week's board meeting, and I'll stay here and finalize the Spanish A & B exams, between shoveling snow and feeding the birds.  Good thing I love snow and winter.  (It must be a holdover from my two years in Labrador, where the average temperature in January was 15 below and the days had about 8 hours of sunlight).
Anyway,  this post is primarily meant to say I'm still alive and well and to explain that I'm going to be pretty busy with exam correction, comment writing, and faculty meetings in the next couple of weeks, so I may not have much to add for the next week or so.  
Until next time!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Slow day of tweeking Spanish exams, getting caught up on correspondence, and getting this week's syllabi up and running( between CBS Sunday Morning and football games).  Picked up some friends coming back from Florida at the airport this evening, now to rest before tomorrow's mapping workshop.  Am posting some pics of Stoneleigh I took last week while visiting Sally:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

     "Home again, home again" after four wonderful days visiting Sally at her school.  Got a complete tour of the main building today after taking Chevy (Golden Lab belonging to Development Director) around campus.  Last night we met Michael (one of Sally's former students at the Klingenstein Program) and his wife  Sonia, teachers at Deerfield, for burgers and wine at the Deerfield Inn.  Before we left, a blond cat was found whining on the front porch. Because of the extreme cold, we finally gave in and brought the poor thing inside and put him/her in the downstairs bathroom with a bowl of milk, some food, and some kitty litter.  After waking up this morning, I put the cat outside again (the temp was almost 40).  We found out later that "Doc" was indeed the barn cat in the horse barn next to Sally's house.  Nice cat, good experience, knowing we'd done a good thing.
During my stay in Greenfield we didn't do anything special (other than last night's dinner and one with Pam & Ben Benson on Thursday) but it was great just to "hang out" with Sally and pretend - at least for a few days - that we were actually a "normal" married couple living under the same roof.  Abnormal as it may be, it is what it is, and we're doing pretty well with it. We'll continue to see each other - either here or there - as often as we can throughout the year.
What with a professional day on Monday and midterm exams next week, I've got my work cut out planning to help the kids prepare for exams, then grades, comments and faculty meetings.  I may not be posting every day, but I'll try.

Friday, January 2, 2009

While I've got the internet at my command, I might as well advertise the trip to San Miguel de Allende that I've taken every two years since 2000.   A description of the trip can be found at the link "Mexico 2009 Trip Flyer" above

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A new year has auspiciously begun and I've decided to make it all the more auspicious by creating my own blog.  I have every intention to post something daily, but we'll see. I know myself too well.  At least part of the reason for my deciding to do this is the fact that Sally has begun her own blog (http://smixsell.blogspot.com) as a means of communicating with parents & other constituencies of Stoneleigh-Burnham School (www.sbschool.org) where she has been serving as Head since July.  I have my own website that I use to post assignments and related links (http://sites.google.com/site/elsitiodelsmixsell/) for my 7th and 8th grade students at Hamden Hall Country Day School (www.hamdenhall.org) but I have thought about posting my own blog for a long time and now seemed to be an opportune time (it IS vacation, after all!)