In my classroom this week: Good news!

This week was a short one, but it felt oh. so.  l   o     n       g. Most schools in New York had this week off for their “February recess” or what-have-you; we had it back when I was in high school. However, my current school only had two days off, and I think this is because we get a full two weeks off for spring break every year, whereas all of those other schools don’t.

We had Monday off for Presidents’ Day and then Tuesday was dedicated to professional development; overall it was a great PD day. We had a child psychologist come in and talk about recognizing the signs of ADHD and how to teach students with ADHD. Then we watched a really great documentary about bullying called Reject which made me kind of emotional; hearing these families and friends of victims of bullying talking about their unfortunate experiences was difficult. I started thinking about the possibilities of any of my students or even my own future kids being bullied to the point of hurting themselves and/or others. Let’s squash bullying!

On Wednesday, I reviewed Circles with my Algebra I class, continued systems of linear inequalities with Algebra II, and continued working with money in Math in Everyday Life (MIEL). That afternoon, my group of advisees and I went to read to a group of elementary school students from our school system. It was cute watching my five junior boys reading to pairs of 4th and 5th graders. It really shows their character when they get to work with younger kids; it takes down their “I want to be treated like an adult while still acting like a kid” and “I’m too cool for everything except basketball” walls and replaces them with enthusiasm and sincerity. They get to be like cool older brothers for 20 minutes, without the real-life responsibilities of older brothers.

After work, I got to hang out with one of my co-workers whilst checking out a venue for our all-faculty end-of-the-year party. It was great getting to talk for a couple hours, chatting about our pasts, presents, and futures. However, by the end of the night, I could tell that my voice was starting to get weak from talking all day at school and then talking over the music at the venue.

When I got home, Tom noticed that my voice was a bit raspy, but I figured it would be fine after a night’s sleep. Thursday, I introduced word problems for systems of inequalities in Algebra II and continued with money in MIEL. My voice started out okay but progressively got worse. By the time I got home, my voice was super raspy and squeaky, cutting out every other word. And trying to speak with inflection? Forget it.

And Friday, I had no voice. I started out the day whispering. It was great because it really made them stop and listen to what I was asking or telling them. It was also funny because I found that students ended up talking very quietly, even to the point of whispering, because I was unable to talk so they followed suit. I told them they could talk normally, but they still were weirdly quiet.

I had the help of Read&Write for Google, an extension that can be used for text-to-speech on Google Docs. It’s also good for speech-to-text, translating to and from different languages, defining and suggesting words while writing, among other things. My  MIEL students got a kick out of it, asking me to change the voice of the computer, to type their names so they could hear them on the speakers, and wanting to hear my message in different languages.

I was supposed to lead the lesson in Chemistry, but I wasn’t able to because I had no voice. After lunch, my advisees along with 2 other advisories got together and made posters for a food drive we are running at school. This coming up week, we will be collecting goods to donate to a local food pantry or soup kitchen to supplement our volunteer work at the FoodBankNYC. My last class of the day, Algebra I, took their Circles test. And then it was Friday afternoon and I was going home to relax the weekend away!

Although out of order chronologically, I had my supervisory meeting Friday morning, and this is where the good news from the title comes in. I know there is a bit of anxiety among teachers at my school because “contract season” is upon us. April is the time when people are either offered a contract to teach next year or are politely (and with difficulty) excused.

Private schools don’t have tenure, so even after three or five or ten years, your job is still not entirely secure. This is actually a great thing because this keeps teachers much more accountable (education buzzword!) than those in public schools who are protected from losing their job that they totally suck at. They might get lazy knowing that they can do [practically] no wrong in terms of their ability to teach their subject.

Good news though: she said there is absolutely no doubt that I will be given a contract to teach again next year! When I acted somewhat surprised and extremely happy, she asked if there was any indication that I wouldn’t be offered the position again for next year.

Well, I mean, I think I’ve done well since starting in September. I think I have good rapport with students and coworkers. I absolutely love my job. However, I’m “only a teacher” and I don’t have the power to make contractual decisions on behalf of myself. In the realm of teaching, you just never know. So as long as I don’t do something royally stupid between now and June, I have a job next year!

Is social media making me illiterate?

So I had a revelation today. I don’t know about you but I actually really like when this happens. It’s like the clouds lift and the light shines as I realize a tiny bit more about myself that has puzzled me (and usually others) for awhile. I usually have them about my feelings or worries, but this time it was about my inability to read. Just hear me out.

I’ve been noticing over the past few years that my reading skills have been (even less than) subpar. I remember plenty of times in college when my roommate Becky would ask me about an email that we both received earlier that day. Maybe it was about a meeting we both were attending or something, but for whatever reason the information from the email would be mentioned

Either she or I would say the time or place or another important piece of information, and the other would question said information. A second check of the email would always prove that I had read the email wrong or seemingly not at all.

Baby reading gif

You would think that after this happening multiple times, I would learn from my mistakes, read the messages twice or slow down or something. But to no avail, over 3 years later, I continue to misread emails, text messages, articles, etc. It has come to be a joke between my fiancé and I (as it was between my roommate and I) that I have a reading problem or disability or whatever you want to call it.

So in all seriousness, I can read; I am literate. I don’t have a (diagnosed) reading disability and I excelled in school. Yes, I have always had dumb moments where I simply glanced at a note or something and did not actually take in the information on it. But then I started realizing that my reading began to jump all over the place; instead of beginning at the first word on the left side of the top line, reading each word from left-to-right, going from one line to the next, I noticed that I would read the first few lines, skip a few sentences or paragraphs, and then work my way backwards.

What the hell? Why in anyone’s name would someone read like that? This past year I read an article for grad school about the F-shaped pattern of reading web content. This isn’t the article I read, but it’s got the same information…or does it? How much do you trust me now? But then again, according to the studies on this reading pattern, I most likely lost you back in paragraph #2.

F-shaped eye tracking web reading pattern

Super interesting, huh? Do you notice that you do the same thing? As interesting and seemingly innate as this pattern is, that still doesn’t necessarily describe why I would skip multiple paragraphs and then work my way backwards.

And then I realized something. While trying to keep track of a Twitter Talk run by TED-Ed (#TedEdChat), I found myself scrolling down to where the talk began, then reading each subsequent tweet that proceeded it. From bottom…to top. I was essentially reading backwards.

And that’s how it is on Twitter…and Facebook…oh my gosh, timelines!

In timeline formatted websites, new information is at the top and, sometimes, in order to understand the more recent stuff, you need to scroll down and read older posts. Then you work your way back up to the top in order to get the whole story.

Bert Mind Blown

This whole time I just chalked up these issues that seemed to pop up in college to skimming and trying to rush through the documents. And yes, there are times where I actually do know I read something too fast and did not actually take in the information as deeply as I needed to. And I have gotten a bit better at stopping myself, asking whether I could recite this back to someone, and (because usually my answer is a big fat NO) then I go back and reread the information slowly.

But I still think these media outlets that gained popularity when I finished high school have actually been hurting my reading ability.

I grew up without email until about middle school, and even then it was sporadic because not all kids had computers at home, so teachers and schools thought it was unfair to use computers as the main source of communication.

I didn’t have cell phone until I was about 14 or 15. And it was big ol’ Tracfone, only slightly smaller than Zach Morris’ brick of a phone. There was no ‘unlimited texting’ or surfing the web or apps to download. There was nothing smart about it, so just imagine how little I used it.

Facebook didn’t catch on for most of my friends and me until we graduated high school because back then it was still exclusive to college students. So I was 17 when I got a Facebook account.

I didn’t get a Twitter account until I was 21. I didn’t regularly use it until I was 23 (last year).

 *This seems to be turning into a “When I was a youngster, we had to walk 15 miles to school, in the snow, up hill and back…” type thing, so I apologize.*

When I was your age...

For the majority of my life, everything was written to be consumed from the top left-hand side, taken one line at a time, until you got to the end of the page or document. Now that I’ve introduced a different way of gaining information (through Tweets and status updates), I think I’ve messed up my processor. *Insert ‘old hardware, new software’ metaphor here*

Websites are full of content and can be consumed in an infinite number of ways and methods. You can choose to read the status updates, or you can wish someone a happy birthday, or click on the article Buzzfeed posted, or check out your own profile, or look at  your friends newly posted pictures…

But classic novels cannot be read this way; letters and emails don’t make sense if we consume them the same way we consume and interact with web pages. So I wonder: if they have hurt my ability, how have kids growing up with nothing but these kinds of “resources” been affected? And how might this affect them in the future? I mean, is it even more difficult for kids who grew up with this kind of technology exposure from a young age? How do they work with English Literature class readings? How do they cope with passages that are more than 140 characters?

Maybe those classic works of literature will become more and more obsolete as the field of computer science continues to grow. But we still need to have a firm grasp on the ‘old’ way of reading since news and research articles are still written this way and it would become really frustrating if they were written in small blurbs as are Tweets and status updates.

Anyways, now that I think I have a firmer grasp on my issue, I hope I will be more aware of my reading and take care to properly consume and digest information based on the format in which I receive it. No more of this backward nonsense! Does anyone else deal with this problem? If not this specific problem (reading backwards and such), do you notice that you read with an F-shaped pattern as the article states?

My Fiance’s Comic Book Collect(obsess)ion

In a matter of just 6 months, my fiance Tom has hoarded accumulated about 20,000 comic books.

No, I did not add one (or two, or three) too many zeros. 20,000. Yeah. It’s taken awhile to be okay with it, but let’s start from the beginning…

His first big purchase was about a week after we got engaged. He picked me up from the train station for a weekend stay at his house but he wouldn’t open the trunk of his car for me to put my bag in. As I walked around to the passenger side, I noticed the 6 boxes taking up the trunk and backseat.

I found a guy on Craigslist that was selling his comic book collection.

Hmm, okay, this seems very random and out of the blue. Since when does Tom collect or want to collect comic books?

I had heard him and his dad talk about comics maybe once or twice before, but there was no major dedication to collecting them. They had gone to a comic book store nearby, 4th World Comics, earlier in the summer and Tom had picked up one (read: ONE) comic book – Daredevil (Frank Miller series) Volume #1. Then, for his birthday later in June, his dad got him a couple more.Daredevil 1

His dad had his own box of comics from years earlier and Tom had accumulated a few individual comics of his own. It was harmless.

So why on earth did he need 6 boxes full of comics? I was honestly worried he was having a mid-life crisis (at the age of 25) or mental breakdown because of our recent engagement. Is this his way of acting out because he feels pressure to “grow up” after only a week of being engaged? But hey, he was the one who bought the ring and got on one knee. No one forced him!

His dad defended this out-of-the-blue purchase:

You know, he could be out at the bars every night or doing drugs or something like that. This is a harmless hobby.

As surprised (and a little paranoid) as I was that day, I couldn’t disagree. Plus, it was cute when he and his dad sat in the TV room later that night sorting through them together. It was a nice bonding time for the two of them, so I couldn’t be upset about that.tom and dad

Until the next weekend, when he brought 4 more boxes home.

Seriously, where is this coming from?! Who needs this many comic books?

The room where he was keeping them, a small room in the front of the house where the cat sleeps at night, began to fill up. It seemed that each weekend I came back to more and more boxes of comic books.

And I really started panicking and getting pissed:

Is it because he feels like he’s trapped now that we’re engaged? Is he bored? Am I going to drown in comic books for the rest of my life? If the house starts on fire, there’s enough paper here to keep it burning for days. Is this ever going to end? Am I engaged to a man-child who won’t ever grow up, making me act as his mom more than his wife??

I tried to accept and be okay with this new obsession, but it was so difficult when every time I came to visit for the weekend his collection continued to grow at an insane rate. His parents tried consoling me many times, telling me that Tom had tendencies of obsessing over things since he was young.

Power Rangers. Star Wars. Comic books. He would go nuts collecting and playing with these toys for a couple of weeks straight, and then it would die down and that was that.

I mean, I had my share of crazes growing up with Power Rangers, Barbies, butterflies…but they were much more moderate and controlled. Tom’s new comic book phase did not seem to be under any control.

And after his third mega-purchase, his parents started questioning this new obsession, too. This no longer was a harmless hobby, this was much more serious. I honestly considered an intervention.HIMYM Intervention

He then started trying to get me to read some but I was so hesitant. I thought that if I did, maybe he would think that I was totally okay with this ridiculous nonsense. I didn’t want him to get the impression that I was accepting this whole buy-ALL-the-comics thing.

But then a part of me wanted to see what the big deal with comic books was. I had never read any before, so I was kind of curious to find out why people enjoy these so much. So much to buy multiple boxes at a time…

So one day we went to the comic book shop together and looked around for a bit; it was honestly like a scene from the Big Bang Theory. Based on looks alone, the few other people there looked like odd ducks that more than likely lived in their parents’ basements and played video games all day, only taking breaks to go to the comic book store to check out the latest issues.Big Bang Theory Comic Store

There were the two mid-to-late-30s guys towards the back, dressed in black, with scruffly beards discussing some epic story in one of the books.

There was the young girl with the chains hanging from her baggy pants and the bandana on her head.

And I quickly started envisioning Tom as a guy who spends his days holed up in the basement packed with comics and action figures and who plays video games and only talks to people online and…Sheldon breathing in paper bag

Breathe, Holliday. Breathe.

Anyways, Tom encouraged me to pick something out. I decided that he probably had enough superhero comics for me to sift through if I wanted, so maybe I would try to find something with a bit of mystery in it. Our guy at the counter suggested one called Locke and Key; apparently there was a movie being made about it and it was just a great mystery-type comic.

I read it. I hated it. This comic was so gory and disgusting, I barely finished it. Plus I’m not into paranormal stuff, so it was three strikes and I had no desire to read the next installation.

Locke and Key cover

The next attempt to get me to read them was a Civil War volume comprised of 7 issues. Since I disliked the “mystery” comic so much, why not give superheroes a chance? Surprisingly, Civil War kept my interest, although I found myself having a difficult time keeping track of characters, their superpowers, which side of the war they were on, etc. I wouldn’t mind going back and re-reading it once I know a bit more about the Marvel superheroes.marvel-civil-war

Next, Tom had me try that original volume of Daredevil, his first purchase of the year, when this was just an innocent past-time. Daredevil is Tom’s favorite superhero, so he encouraged me to try it out and see if I liked the action-y, superhero-y stuff.

So Frank Miller’s Daredevil Volume 1 was my subway reading for a bit. While at work one day, I was sitting in one of the teachers’ rooms getting situated to do homework, and I had taken the comic out of my bag and set it on the table.

The teacher, Aaron, noticed it and we started talking about comics; turns out he enjoys them and was intrigued by Tom’s…ahem…enjoyment of them. I quickly introduced Aaron to Tom via email and we’ve all talked about going to a board game cafe soon (you go and pay to drink coffee and play any board games you want)  as a double date.

See? If I hadn’t gotten you to read the comic, you wouldn’t have bonded with Aaron like that.

I had to admit he was right; it was a great way to start a conversation and begin bonding with someone new.

Tension was still building back at the home front, however. Tom was still scouring Craigslist, looking for collections to clean out and garage sales to explore. This was going way past a cute way to bond with his dad or even a harmless hobby. It was disgusting home many comics he was “collecting”.

And they were just sitting in his room, taking up space that was quickly dwindling. I don’t understand the point of having so many things that have no benefit other than the personal satisfaction of saying you have 20,000 of them. Where is that going to get you in life?

I’ll tell you: alone. You and those 20,000 things.

In October, he and his dad went to Comic Con in New York City. People go nuts with the costumes at Comic Con, so Tom asked his dad if he had thought about dressing up.

Yeah, I’m going as Clark Kent.

They didn’t end up dressing up in costumes, but if you want to see a bunch of people who did, check out Business Insider’s Best Costumes from this past year’s conference. Tom wants me to go with him next year, and he wants to dress up.

One thing I noticed is that most of the girls that dress up have huge boobs and flaunt them like whoa. Guess I could go as a dude. But I honestly think a lot of the females go just to have another excuse to dress in skimpy clothes. Why stop at Halloween?

Anyways, Tom came back with about 25 comics that day. Okay, it wasn’t terrible because at that point I was already desensitized; 25 comics was a speck in the universe of Tom’s growing lot.

But then, in November, things started to get better when Tom finally told me he was planning on making this into a business. Not too much better, you understand, but a little. I mean, let’s face it – how many people are out to buy a bunch of comic books? Other than those guys I saw at the comic book store. And the guys on The Big Bang Theory. And Tom.

But once I knew that he was planning on trying to sell the comics rather than simply have them sit in a room doing nothing whatsoever (except act as fuel in the event of a fire), the clouds somewhat lifted.

Since then, Tom has been doing his research for creating his own comic book website. He’s looked through shipping options, bought his domain, and we’ve discussed subscription possibilities. I offered to help organize his comics and enter them into the comic book database software he found, Collectorz Comic Book Database. So far I have successfully tackled 15 boxes – 7 short boxes and 8 long ones.CLZ Comics logo

When the idea of this comic book online store first came about, the idea was to organize ALL comics alphabetically, so that there were boxes designated for those starting with an A, those starting with a B, and so on. Then within those boxes, the comics would be organized by title, series, and issue number.

But this was just too much for the amount of comics, so I decided that the best way to go about it was to just alphabetize and order the comics in each box. Once the box was successfully entered into the database, I would label the box with the corresponding name to keep track of the contents of each box. For example, I would take a box, begin alphabetizing and putting them in order, enter each comic into the app, reload the comics into the box in order, save that file as ‘box 1’, and then write ‘box 1’ on that box.

I have to admit that I actually haven’t minded it. I am a pretty organized person, so putting things in order while listening to music and knowing that this will help speed up the process of getting the comics out of here makes me feel like I’m getting something accomplished. Dare I say it’s kind of soothing? Plus, I have time to do it now before I get a teaching job that demands more time outside of school, so why not?

Once we get a good number of comics catalogued, Tom will upload the lists (I’m pretty sure as Excel spreadsheets) to the website, and can officially open for business. Until then, I will continue to be enlightened on the vast (and excessive) numbers of sub-plots and spin-offs of superheroes’ stories.

For a little taste, the latest 2 boxes I worked through have been full of X-Men. And unlike my naive assumptions, one simply does not stop with plain old X-Men. Oh no, no, no.

You have X-Men, then you have X-Men: First Class, Astonishing X-Men, New X-Men, Dark X-Men, Amazing X-Men, Young X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-treme X-Men, X-Men Legacy…and then there are the individual character comics…and collaborations with other superheros…Civil Wars…I mean, just go skim through the Wikipedia page and see what I’m up against. Then do that for Superman, Spiderman, Thor

Wish us luck.

2013 Reflections and 2014 Ambitions

With 2014 just around the corner (as in less than 12 hours away), I figured I would make a list of “resolutions” for the new year! Yeah!

Now I have some reservations about the idea of making New Year resolutions in January because

  1. I think we should reflect on our lives and have goals for the future all the time, not just when the clock strikes midnight on the 1st of the year.
  2. Being in school for the past 19 years, I guess I’ve been brainwashed in thinking of a “new year” as starting in September. In all those years as a student and future years as a teacher, I’m of the mindset that, “it’s only January; we still have a whole 6 months of the year left.”
  3. I think a lot of times people make these great resolutions with good intentions but without realizing how much they have to change their lifestyle or mindset in order to accomplish them. So as soon as they falter, they don’t have a plan B set in place or a way to get past the roadblock. They end up letting the feelings of defeat get the best of them and, soon after, they simply give up.

Not only did I include goals/resolutions for the upcoming year, I figured I would include regrets and accomplishments from the previous one. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

2013 Achievements:

√  Moved to and lived in New York City

√  Completed graduate school at Columbia University

TC ID

√  Kept my Crohn’s under control

√ Created and maintained a blog (except for the past 3 weeks…but with the holidays and work and completing grad school, I think I have a legitimate excuse)

√  Obtained 3 different jobs in NYC (TA at a private middle school, cashier at a small pharmacy, aide for a high school student)

√  Got engaged – I guess that’s more of an accomplishment for Tom (proposing and getting me to say yes)

Christmas ornaments!

2013 Regrets:

  • Stumbling in my spiritual life and thereby trying to control too many aspects of my life
  • Constantly worrying about what others think of me
  • Lack of self-worth/esteem/ambition/confidence
  • Not reading enough – about the world, about math, about teaching, about God
  • Watching too much YouTube (read about my addiction here) and Netflix (currently on season 5 of Gossip Girl)

2014 Goals:

  • Get married! (this one’s more of an event than a goal…woot!)
  • Get a teaching job (I miss being in the classroom – check me out student teaching back in 2011; I’m the one in purple, holding paper in the front. I know, I get mistaken for a student a lot.)Student Teaching - October 2011
  • Push through the premarital book we were recommended and started last month; I didn’t expect it to be this difficult! Let me give you an explanation:

You see, it’s not so much the discussions we end up having about our roles in the marriage or our expectations or whatever the exercises ask us to do or reflect on. The part I struggle with is the fact that we have to constantly reflect on our parents’ marriage, our relationships with our parents, and just our pasts in general.

These questions honestly make me question who I am because I can’t even rationalize some of my thoughts and thought processes. I end up so deflated after doing an exercise in the workbook that I honestly don’t want to do any more. But I know it’s helpful to look at myself and reflect on my past in order to set my sights on what I want in the future and in our marriage. It’s just tough when you didn’t grow up a cookie-cutter life of two healthy, married parents.

Tom has been a real trooper, coming up with ways to alter some of the exercises so that we don’t have to necessarily focus on those things that frustrate me. For example, one week we had to analyze our expected roles in our marriage. However, the book asked us to write down which of our parents were responsible for which household and/or professional responsibilities. Going through the list, I realized that after the age of 10, I did quite a few of the duties, my dad being absent and Mom’s health not so great. After the age of 15, I did most of them. Gee book, thanks for bringing that up.

Well, since Tom marches to the beat of his own drum and since my parents’ marriage ended when I was young and Mom’s MS made it difficult for her to do things, he suggested we just focus on our marriage because that’s all that really matters at this point. We ended up agreeing on most (with the exception of maybe 1 or 2) of the “roles” we plan to split or share in the book.

  • Buy a house
  • Find a church to attend consistently and become an active member in
  • Keep up with student loans
  • Survive the remaining 6 months of my current job, 4 hour daily commute and all
  • With said 4 hour commute (making for 12 hours out of the house every day), find time to run or go to the gym. Come on, you can’t honestly set resolutions without including health and fitness.
  • Create and use my own math/education blog (this is halfway done already…I created a blog, Chatting About Math, on edublogs.org, but feel like I have nothing to contribute since I am not in the classroom full-time yet)
  • Read more – about the world, about math, about teaching, about God. This should be made easier with my daily commute.
  • Write more – on this blog, on my math blog, maybe contribute to someone’s blog or something?
  • Learn how to argue/debate and stick to my ideas/decisions – this may sound like a weird one, but I tend to avoid arguments or debates because I suck at them. I don’t want to create arguments just for the sake of arguing, but I would like to become better and defending my position on topics.
  • Gain more self-confidence/esteem/ambition/worth and not be so dependent on what others say or think

So there you have it folks. Kind of a long list, I know, but I think there’s a good mix of small and large goals, some more easily obtained than others. What are you most proud of from 2013? What are you most looking forward to in the new year?

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year’s Eve as well as an amazing 2014! Cheers!Happy New Year