Sunday, March 25, 2012

Getting Ready for A-Z

I thoroughly enjoyed doing the A-Z Blogging Challenge last April. There were well over 1000 participants last year, and it looks like there will be even more this year. I found some great writers to follow, and I look forward to finding more this year. 

I'm glad to see that many of the writers I found through last year's Challenge are back for more. Some of the best writing in the blogosphere happens during A-Z, and I can't wait to see what my favorite writers come up with this year. There's still time to get in on the fun, just click the big ol' badge and get yourself signed up.

I signed up a while ago, and my plan was to get a head start, have a bunch of posts ready to go. So far I've written A and B, with plans to write a bunch of posts this week. I'm sort of torn about the whole getting ahead of the game thing. Last year I wrote each post the day before, and the pressure of having a deadline seemed to work. Looking back, there were only a couple of posts that feel half-assed, and I'm proud of the whole thing as a body of work.

I thought about having a theme last year, but eventually decided to pick random topics. My first thought this year was to do a movie theme, but after much deliberation, I'm going random again. I'm sure movies will factor heavily, but in a random way. ifyouknowwhatimsayin.

There was a video challenge to create a buzz for this year's A-Z, and this is the winning entry from Rachel Morgan. If you haven't signed up already, watch this and catch the spirit.

Monday, March 19, 2012

On Motivation

Not to be all oxymoronic, but we had an interesting staff meeting last week. As a failing school, we are required to test our students at the end of each quarter. It's called Progress Monitoring. Our scores had been relatively flat through second quarter, so we decided to ramp it up for third quarter. A committee was formed to create an incentive program for the kids, and their recommendation was to do a raffle. Without going into the specifics, kids could earn raffle tickets by improving their scores in math and reading.

We analyzed data at our last staff meeting, and there were significant gains. The raffle was deemed a success, but one of my colleagues made an interesting point. She lamented that it took a raffle to get our students to perform. She wondered if we were doing our kids a disservice by using external rewards as motivation. Shouldn't they do their best on tests because it's the right thing to do?

The whole intrinsic vs. extrinsic thing.

Ideally, kids should want to do well on tests, or anything really, because success is it's own reward. Of course, as a failing school, success is often hard to come by. That was the idea with the raffle, to create that feeling of success before we take our state tests in April. While I agree with my colleague, I think the raffle was right for our particular situation.

All this has had me thinking about motivation in general. In the good ol' days, did kids work hard just because? Do the kids of today have to have some kind of reward, something concrete, to work hard? Is that even a bad thing? We live in a capitalist society after all. Maybe kids today are just more in tune with their culture. What's-in-it-for-me the only real motivation.

The funny thing is, I usually try not to pay much attention at staff meetings.   

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Kid Made Me Do It

I read The Hunger Games back in March of 2009 (I keep track of these things. It's sad, I know). I enjoyed it so much, I ordered a class set and read it with my students. I'd never seen kids so into a book.

My last two groups have loved the book as well. Even the kids who boast that they don't like reading can't deny it, they now have a favorite book.

Many of my students became obsessed, immediately devouring the rest of the series. They came to me, the one who turned them on to this incredible story. Surely I would talk to them, validate all the feelings they were having. They were dumbfounded when I told them I hadn't read Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

I'm not sure why, I just wasn't interested. Sequels in general just aren't my thing. When I heard about the movie, I figured Catching Fire and Mockingjay would follow, and that's how I'd get the rest of the story. Not a problem, that's how I did Harry Potter. Read the first one, waited for the movies.

Then my kid read The Hunger Games for her mother/daughter book club. She knocked out Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and has been bugging me ever since to read them. She's already flummoxed that I won't finish Harry Potter, so I gave in.

I read Catching Fire about a month ago. I wish I could say I loved it, but the truth is, Katniss got on my nerves. She sounded like a whiny teenager, "OMG, I have to fight for my life again? Why don't Gale and Peeta understand me?" I don't know, I wasn't buying it.

My kid is losing her mind about The Hunger Games movie. She bought a couple magazines that have Hunger Games posters to hang in her room. Her excitement reminds me of how I felt about the Stars Wars movies. That kind of excitement has to be honored, so I pushed through and read Mockingjay. I finished this weekend, and I could tell it meant a lot to Scout.

So even though Catching Fire and Mockingjay didn't do it for me, I'm glad I read them. I'm part of the club now.

How 'bout you? Are you a fan of the books? Looking forward to the movie?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

From Ghana to Buffalo Wild Wings

The Rileys all left the house around 6:45 Saturday morning. I headed to a local park with the girls for a day of soccer, while Meg began her journey to Ghana.

Meg will be in Ghana for two weeks, part of a State Department program for teachers. She had to create a blog to document her experience, so if you're interested, check it out.

The soccer tournament was a lot of fun. I've been coaching Quinn's team all year, and this was the end of our season. We destroyed most of our competition this year, so we decided to play in the most competitive bracket. Our record was 0-2-2, but the girls played with such heart, I was incredibly proud. The teams we played have been together a lot longer than we have, but by this time next year, we'll be ready. 

We tied the team that won the tournament, the only team they didn't beat. After the game, their coach pulled Quinn aside and told her how impressed he was by her tenacity. The smile on Quinn's face was priceless. Quinn is much smaller than most of the girls she competes against, but she's fast and relentless. She will not be denied. It is simply pure joy to watch Quinn play soccer.

Scout's team struggled when they started the transition to club soccer, losing most of their games. In the last month you could see them improving, really coming together. They won a couple games and came close in a few others. They finished their season by winning this tournament, not losing a game. How awesome is it to see a group of girls continue to battle and be rewarded for their efforts? Uh, pretty awesome.

Then yesterday was Quinn's birthday. It doesn't seem possible, but my baby is 9. Quinn loves her some wings, so we ate at the Buffalo Wild Wings by the house. Quinn attacks wings the way she does opponents on the soccer field. It's pretty damn funny.

We used ipods to talk with Meg this morning, something called facetime. Scout knew about it. It's free, and it kind of blows my mind. Meg walked out to the street to give us a glimpse of her surroundings. Very cool.

So now it's almost the end of day four of my stint as a single parent. A lot of emotions these last four days. I am so happy that Meg is on such an amazing journey. But I miss her. Things aren't complete without her. My kids make me insanely proud. So many emotions, thoughts, ebbing and flowing. It's life.