Don't Panic: I'm a Teacher

Navigating the Galaxies of 21st Century Learning

Here Are the Best Books of 2015 So Far

Since I work with teens, it’s not often that I take a look at “adult” books, but some of these look too good to miss.


It’s turning into a big year for readers. Though highly-anticipated releases from authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Harper Lee remain on the horizon, 2015 has already produced enough great books to topple a nightstand.

To help you sort through the year’s offerings or choose which titles to add to your summer reading list, TIME has ranked the best books of 2015 (so far). The picks span genre and form — including a darkly enchanting collection of short stories, a delightful novel featuring a dysfunctional bride-to-be and a singing memoir chronicling both grief and, yes, taming a hawk. Happy reading!

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August 1(Don’t) Panic: a #celebration Saturdays post.

Today is August 1st, which honestly is causing me more than a little anxiety. This weekend is my last two days of actual summer vacation.

I teach in an ABE (adult basic education) program designed to support adults on their way to passing the GED. Classes are on Tuesdays, but we have orientation on Monday.

On Tuesday, I’m also attending mentor training. For the first time, I will be someone’s official mentor (it’s official when you get paid a stipend for it, I think). I mentored teachers at my old school, but that was much more along the lines of how to teach so as to minimize pencils being thrown at your back. That school wasn’t very supportive of teachers, or students if I’m honest. But I digress…

Anxiety fills me because I haven’t read all the books I wanted to this summer. There’s still a shelf full of books, and I know for a fact that I can’t get through them in time.

I’m a bit panicked because I’m starting a writing center and I haven’t yet begun writing lesson plans for the tutors.

I am also new to the school management team this year. I now have to actually know things.

Psst my mind whispers, this is supposed to be a celebration Saturday post. Yes yes, I’m getting to that.

My roommate and I agreed once that if I have a superpower, it is the ability to put a positive spin on anything. I think it comes from being a middle child and being, at my core, a people-pleaser. I’m an optimistic realist.

So, while it won’t stop me from stressing, let’s reframe my anxiety into celebrations, shall we?

1. I love my ABE classes. Working with adults is such a joy! They come into class with a different attitude than teenagers. They ask questions, they want feedback, and they have an ultimate goal. I work with awesome teachers who are supportive of each other and our adult students.

2. We will have a new reading specialist at my school! I’m looking forward to showing her or him the ropes and introducing our diverse students. I know I can be a supportive mentor who inspires creativity, because I have friend who was once my mentee who has become a fantastic teacher. This will be great!

3. No, I didn’t get through my completely unrealistic stack of summer reading. I never will read all the books I want to read: it is just not possible. And that’s okay! What a pleasure to know that I can quite literally never run out of good books to read! Also, I read a lot of good books, and there will be more good books to come!


4. I haven’t written the lesson plans because I haven’t met my students yet. I’m a lucky teacher: none of the classes I teach have a set curriculum. I create a framework at the start of the year for what I think my students will need, and then I adapt and plan lessons according to my kids. I get to personalize my educational practices. All I can do at this point is create goals. After I meet the students, my hard work begins.

5. I get to be on the school management team. I get to know the inside scoop and plan on working with teachers based on the things we discuss. I can be a real leader. Because I actually do know things.

Today, I celebrate the last two weeks of summer, in which I can focus on preparations while still finding time to go to the pool. I celebrate two more weeks of binge watching TV shows that I’ll inevitably miss during the school year.

What are you celebrating today? Thanks to Ruth Ayers for the Celebrate Link Up.


Discover. Play. Build.

Modern Conveniences in the Chesapeake Bay: A Slice of Life Blog.

My roommate and I are at the beach in Chesapeake Bay, VA. I’d post pictures, but to save battery on my ever-depleting smartphone (which I can’t live without), I’ve been taking pictures with an actual digital camera. My roommate thinks that makes me about ninety years old, but I think, at the very least, I can get away with 74.

Anyway, as we’re getting ready for our second and last day of basking out in the sand, we were discussing the best way to get Irish beverages on the beach. I suggested the DD Coolata as an option, which led to a hypothetical scenario in which I spoke to an employee through the drive thru window:

“Hello” (Dramatic voice) “I would like a Coconut Coolata, please.”

“I’m sorry ma’am” the bored teenager would say into her microphone. “We don’t make Coconut Coolatas.”

“Then grind up one of your coconut donuts and mix it in.” I reply. Again, hypothetical, and also hilarious if you heard my delivery, but since this is not the best medium for that, you’re just going to have to believe that I am super funny.

This got me thinking of the impersonal nature of the drive-thru in general. I never thought about it before, but I have said or thought these words: “I don’t have time to go in, I’ll just go through the drive thru.” You’ve said/though them as well, even though we all know that it’s not really a convenience. You have to repeat yourself multiple times or make the sad teenager on the other end repeat him or herself. Then you have to wonder about spit or other things they might add to your order if you are too difficult of a customer. If you don’t check your order right away, you might find out halfway down the road that they gave you a cheeseburger instead of a grilled chicken sandwich (that has happened to me) or that they gave you Pepsi when you clearly ordered diet Pepsi.

The point is here that what we’re really saying when we elect to go through the drive thru is “I would like food, but I would like to limit my interactions with other humans as much as possible.” We are willing to accept the drive-thru frustrations because we don’t have to actually stand in line with other people who, God forbid, might have children. We might get behind those folks who just can’t figure out what they want, even though they’ve come to a fast food place, so it’s not like there will be any big surprises: they still vacillate between the #1 and the #3. And then, at the end of it all, we have to make the same decisions ourselves, but this time talking face-to-face with a minimum wage worker forced to do a degrading job. I think we don’t like to admit that we feel superior to those folks, (you might deny that, but if you’ve ever gone to Burger King and seen a middle-aged person and felt sorry for them, you’re in the same boat here). We might have to admit that we’re kind of bad people.

And that’s why we talk into a microphone and order our fries to go, because it’s all sort of embarrassing and elitist of us to demand someone make our food without making eye contact.

My roommate is out of the shower so it’s time to head to the beach again. I hope to be eating delicious crab or oysters later, and to make full eye contact and even some conversation with my server.

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life challenge, a link-up that lets me riff about the ridiculous with a guaranteed audience. 🙂

Slice of Life

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? July 27, 2015

I am feeling the school year creep nearer. All school teachers feel it right now: our thoughts are turning toward lesson plans, while our spirits still want to be hitting the beach. I deal with this dichotomy by reading books, of course! Continue reading “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? July 27, 2015”

I was invited to participate in PopSugar’s “2015 Reading Challenge” by my sister in-law’s sister, and a group of us have been keeping up with it in a FB group. It’s been a great way to compete and force myself to read more than my typical genres.

An Evening Walk

Not to make this a running theme, but I was bullied into an evening walk by my Fitbit. “Only 2,334 steps to go!” it reminded me. I knew I could make a convincing argument that I had gone on a 45 minute walk earlier today, that I had burned well over 2,000 calories today, and that even 8,766 steps in a day was a damn good accomplishment, but already the Guilt Monster was chomping away at what it knew would be its next meal.

An evening walk was necessary.
Continue reading “An Evening Walk”

July 20, 2015 Edition: It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?


Okay, I admit it: I’m reading a lot this week. One of the benefits of visiting my parents is that they are both sort of home bodies, which means I have a lot of time devote to reading. As of today, I am reading five (though two are audio.): All the Lovely Bad Ones, They All Looked Up, The Everyday Bible, Serial, & Yes Please

Keep of your “to read list” using  
Continue reading “July 20, 2015 Edition: It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?”

Pets and Parents: A Love Story

Discover. Play. Build.

This week, I drove five hours from my home in NOVA to my childhood home in Western Pennsylvania. I had to leave my cat at home because my favorite of Mom’s cats, Chance, was sick. Mom was afraid he might be on his last days.

Chance a.k.a Orange Crush a.k.a Chanceafrass

When Chance was a kitten, he was hit by a car. When Mom found him, he was barely alive, frostbitten, and unable to eat. My parents saved his life, and now he’s a eight year old, chubby, cuddlebug, his adorably smooshed face and clipped ear the only indications that he had ever been hurt.

He’s in my lap now, purring and preparing to nap. I’m celebrating his recovery, but I’m also celebrating something else this week.

My reason for visiting PA this week is my parents’ 40th Anniversary.
Continue reading “Pets and Parents: A Love Story”

Book Review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

If I have a favorite author, it is Neil Gaiman, and the reason is simple: he surprises me. I’m a lover of stories in all forms, and the problem with that is that it has become difficult for authors to surprise me. I can almost always sort of tell how something will end up, what option a character will choose, what might intervene to change the tale–and I’m not alone here. It’s a problem that plagues other story lovers as well. Continue reading “Book Review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman”

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