#BloggingAtoZ — SBG

My post for today is a little bit of a cheat. I’d like to talk a little bit about standards-based grading (SBG). If you’re not familiar with SBG, it’s essentially a way of assessing student learning that focus on measuring student progress against a learning target instead of reporting student learning with a letter grade. Lots of people say they don’t understand SBG or they have no experience with it, but if they’re parents and their kids went to school it is likely they do know about it. Many kids in younger grades are assessed using learning targets — “The student can add single digit numbers,” would be an example of a learning target, and as the school year progresses, the teacher checks the student’s progress against this target and then reports that to the parents. The goal is that by the end of the year, the student achieves mastery or proficiency (some say there are synonymous, some say they are different, but that’s a topic for a different blog post). Admittedly, the learning targets get more complex and more challenging to measure as kids get older, but the goal is to provide students, parents, and teachers with more detailed information about what a students knows and where more work needs to be done. SBG is meant to be more informative than an A, B, C, D, or F. Letter grades can reflect so much more than just what a students has learned, and they can be defined differently (if I asked you to define each of those letter grades and compared your definitions to mine, there would likely be discrepancies on what those grades mean). I am working hard to learn about SBG — it is a huge mind shift for someone who has spent her entire career giving letter grades to junior ELA students. I like it in theory; I am still trying to understand it in practice (which is doubly challenging for me since for the past 6 years, I have been working as my district’s instructional technology resource teacher, so I don’t have my own students, so I am not actually using SBG). Not too long ago, on my education blog, I wrote about an epiphany I had about SBG, so I’m going to link to it here. Like I said, I am still working very hard to learn all I can about SBG, so if you’re able to help me on my learning path with insights, resources, personal experiences, etc., I’d love to hear them!

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#BloggingAtoZ — Rag ‘n’ Bone Man

I was confused yesterday because I realized I was a letter behind. I couldn’t figure out how that could be — until I realized I did 2 posts for the letter N! So here I am, Easter Sunday, getting caught up!

For the letter R, let me introduce you to a musical artist I discovered maybe a year and a half ago — Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. I happened to be channel surfing through my Sirius XM radio stations one day in the car when I was stopped by the voice in a beautiful song I had never heard before called “Odetta.” The song was by Rag ‘n’ Bone man and his voice was haunting. I immediately started pulling up random songs on Google Music by him and fell in love. He has this rich, soulful voice that absolutely does not match his face. This made me love him even more. As I listened to more and more songs, I fell more and more in love. “Hard Came the Rain” pulled me in, but really hit me hard when I watched the video for it. Songs like “Skin” and “Human” are so powerful, they nearly move me to tears. I would love to see him perform live, but he doesn’t appear to be in the United States much. He was at LollaPalooza last year, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay the exorbitant price and fight the traffic into Chicago to go to Lolla for one performer so instead I listen to Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and wistfully hope for him to embark on a US tour someday. I hope you enjoy his music as much as I do.

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#BloggingAtoZ — Quiet

This ornament was made for and given to me by one of my most respected and admired colleagues. It is a constant reminder to me of how important it is to continue to speak up and out.

I am a two-time sexual assault survivor. Oddly enough, it has only been in recent time that I actually realized that the sexual assaults were just that — assaults. I have only recently also recognized that I was a victim as well as a survivor. It was the #MeToo and the #WhyIDidntReport movement and the attention paid to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that helped me recognize what happened to me in my past and also inspired me to finally share my story. Since then, I have vowed to not remain silent on this topic. I believe women when say they have been sexually assaulted or raped because no matter what anyone thinks or says, any perceived “benefit” the woman may get as a result of reporting it is far, far outweighed by the amount of slut shaming they receive as a result. This is what keeps women from reporting and therefore living their lives silent, hurt, and confused like I did. I came across a song shared on social media that expressed the sentiment behind this beautifully. The song is “Quiet” by Milck. It is powerful and moving. I hope women everywhere hear it and know that when they speak up and out, they will have an army of women with them, hearing them, supporting them. No woman should ever have to keep quiet. We keep hoping that the culture will change, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. So I must be the change, and I will not be quiet.

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#BloggingAtoZ — Princess Diana

Have you ever been asked the question, “If you could have the chance to meet with any person, either dead or alive, who would it be?” When I am asked that question, I answer with Princess Diana.

What I saw in Princess Diana was an incredibly human human being. She had power and prestige and privilege and beauty and station, but she also had weaknesses and flaws and vulnerabilities while also having a heart and compassion and selflessness. She was able to leverage each of those qualities to make herself someone who was relatable and admirable and inspirational.

I feel like she created a legacy for herself purposefully, but not because she wanted to be remembered by all of us; she created a legacy because she knew that she had the ability to change people’s lives, and that was what would live on well beyond however many years she lived (which wasn’t anywhere near enough, in my opinion). She showed the world that you can make mistakes on the most public of stages and still be a force for good in the world. She showed us that we don’t have to always play by the rules. She showed everyone that using your wealth, power, privilege, and station to benefit others begets more wealth, power, privilege, and station that you can keep using for good. It’s a beautiful vicious circle. And you don’t have to have loads of wealth, power, privilege, or station. We should all use what we have, and if we all worked as selflessly as she did, just imagine how wonderful this world would be.

That’s why I would want to meet Princess Diana. I would want to hear how she did this and then do it myself.

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#BloggingAtoZ — Over When it’s Over

Since I was unable to do my blog post yesterday, I’ll be doubling up today! So the “O” post should have been for yesterday, and the topic is the Eric Church song, “Over When it’s Over.” I don’t remember when I first heard it, but I do know it was one of those songs that I fell in love with the first time I heard it. I love the bit of melancholy in the way Church sings it, the tinges of regret. And the language, oh, the language! The words, the metaphors, the extended metaphors! So many good ones:

“We had it in the air but just couldn’t land it.”

“Where regrets outlast the alcohol.”

“It’s the last long drag on a Marlboro light.”

“It’s a blank page when you’re out of words.”

“It’s too far gone to be shocked back.”

The teacher in me would LOVE to use this song to teach my students about metaphor and extended metaphor. The girl in me just sees all sorts of different ways to describe the heartaches I’ve felt in my life. This song is a good one.

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#BloggingAtoZ — 99 Years

Not very long ago, maybe 6 weeks or so, I stumbled upon a song that resonated with me. My husband and I have been married for almost 29 years and we have had our share of ups and downs. And if I’m being honest, most of the ups were not really high ups, but the downs were really low downs. When our daughter started high school, I started harboring a deep, secret fear (found out later my husband was having the same fear) — I was very much afraid that when our daughter left for college we would fall apart. We had had so many bad years and our marriage really felt pretty empty at times that I worried that the last little bit of glue holding us together would be gone. But miraculously, we didn’t break. Instead, we somehow found our way back to each other and our marriage started to flourish. I’m not saying things are perfect because we’ve had a few downs since our renaissance, but it’s like now we know how to find our way back to each other when things get rough and stormy. And it turns out we both have been secretly harboring the same secret thought again — we wish we could have found each other sooner. We both are feeling our age and knowing we probably have passed the midway point in our marriage and there’s some regret that we missed out on some years of great friendship. That’s where the song I’m writing about comes in. The song is “99 Years” by Josh Groban and Jennifer Nettles. It’s one of those songs that grabbed me the moment I first heard it. It’s like the song fell into my lap when I needed to hear it. I know Jim and I don’t have 99 years left together, but I’m going to make sure we make it as close to that as we can.

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#BloggingAtoZ — Never Say Never

One of my favorite songs during high school is the song “Never Say Never” by Romeovoid. I first heard it in the (absolutely ridiculous but I love it) movie Reckless which stars Aidan Quinn and Daryl Hannah. I remember how cool the movie scene was (you can see it above) and I also remember thinking, “Damn, that’s got to be the coolest school ever to play this song at a dance!” The song, while having lyrics that might offend some, has an appealing, hard-driving edge that’s just catchy as hell. It was a song that got plenty of play on my favorite radio station in high school (WLRA 88.1 FM out of Lewis University — they’re what’s left on the FM dial). If you’ve never heard the song, give it a listen. You might like it — never say never!

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#AtoZChallenge — Memphis

About a month ago, I took my very first trip to Memphis. I have wanted to go to Memphis ever since I heard about the Peabody Ducks! My husband and I took a long weekend there with good friends of our who have been to Memphis before, and they were the perfect tour guides! Some highlights:

Gotta start with the Peabody Ducks at the Peabody Hotel. The ducks live at the hotel in a penthouse and every day at 9 AM, a doorman brings them down in an elevator and they walk the red carpet to the fountain in the lobby and happily swim there until 5 PM when they are paraded out of the fountain and back up to their penthouse. It is the most adorable thing you will ever see!

The adorable Peabody Ducks!
My drink at the Peabody Hotel, complete with a keepsake duck!

Beale Street is so much fun! So many cool bars and music fills the air everywhere! They close it off so you can walk right down the middle of the street. We visited the Rum Boogie Cafe twice for some great music — easily my favorite bar we visited on Beale Street!

No trip to Memphis would be complete without visiting Graceland! It is fascinating — frozen in time. It made me wonder what Lisa Marie must think to have her childhood home frozen in time like that and a tourist attraction.

Beale Street at night.

The Civil Rights Museum is a place I will definitely go back to visit because the couple hours I had there simply wasn’t enough time. The museum is built right into the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It actually takes your breath away to stand in that parking lot and look up at the balcony, adorned with a wreath of flowers. That site is iconic and to be right there in person is humbling. The museum is a fascinating, embarrassing, and yet powerful reminder of too many shameful parts of our country’s history and the triumphs that resulted from actions taken by so many incredibly brave people.

The famous jungle room at Graceland.

I had a life-altering meal at Gus’s Fried Chicken. Just remembering that meal makes my mouth water as I’m typing this! I ate every bit of my fried chicken that night, simply gorged myself, and it was worth every morsel. If you love fried chicken, this place will simply blow you away.

The living room at Graceland — dated, but really quite breathtaking!

We also had dinner one night at Rendezvous Barbecue. Pretty good stuff there, too. If I’m being honest, their smoked sausage was some of the best I have ever had! You can’t go to Memphis without having barbecue, now can you?

I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend trip to Memphis! I am looking forward to a return trip — more Beale Street! More great music! More Civil Rights Museum! More Gus’s Fried Chicken! I can hardly wait!

Elvis’s grave at Graceland.
The sobering site where MLK was murdered.
The view MLK would have had as he stepped onto the balcony.
Amazing smoked sausage from Rendezvous Barbecue.
The. Best. Fried. Chicken. Ever.
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#BloggingAtoZ — Leaving Me Now

My post today is about a song that many probably have not heard of. It’s titled “Leaving Me Now” and it is by the band Level 42. Most people are probably familiar with Level 42’s bigger hit “Something About You”. “Leaving Me Now” is on the same album. This song is special to me because it took on special significance for me after an engagement ended in January 1986. I got engaged right out of high school to a guy who (I realize now) wanted nothing to do with marrying me or being with me since he had himself someone else. I moved from my home in Illinois to be with him and got to school in Philadelphia. By the time my first semester in college ended, so had my engagement. I had been with this guy for 5 years and he was my first love, so I took the breakup pretty hard. Adding to the stress and sadness was that I needed to uproot my life again, leave my new friends and college, and go back home to Illinois. Sometimes I look back at that time and I am so grateful that I had that breakup then instead of now. There was no social media, so the only way I could learn anything going on in his life with his new woman was if we talked on the phone or we exchanged letters. I tried to contact him plenty, but obviously he wasn’t interested.

Music plays a huge role in my life. I attach songs to so many significant moments and memories. This song was one I listened to over and over again after we broke up. It’s a song about the end of a relationship, and there were lines that just seem to echo my sentiments at that time: “Seems all I’ve known is deceit”, “I’d still die for you gladly”, “Not even love could bring you to stay”, “There’s no more love, only feelings of doubt”. The melancholy in the song was just what I needed to drown in my feelings of sadness and pain. I would listen to this song so many times a day, and slowly, over time, I would listen less and less and I would feel a little less pain. Now I can listen to the song and appreciate the beautiful way heartache is expressed and I can conjure up memories of how crushed I was at that time. But I don;t need the song to help me work through anything anymore, but it remains a favorite because it enabled me to go on with living and loving.

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#BloggingAtoZ — K-Fit

I know I’ve written about boxing before, but for this post I thought I’d share a little bit about the boxing gym I go to, K-Fit Boxing. The owners, Kenji and Anne, are also the instructors/trainers. I have not taken am actual class with Kenji, but he has subbed for classes I take with Anne, and what I can tell you for sure about Kenji is he is the definition of bad ass! He is incredibly knowledgeable about boxing, he’s an amazing athlete, a kettlebell master, and has self-discipline that is enviable. His wife Anne is every bit the incredible athlete he is, and she is one of the best fitness instructors I have ever worked with. She is really great about explaining how to do exercises and offering modifications, both up and down. And she really celebrates every success and accepts everyone at their level. I’ve never felt out of place being a chubby chick with other skinny women or with other more physically fit women. And that’s to me, the real strength of K-Fit — the culture and the atmosphere. It is welcoming of all — you want to improve your fitness and health and they will meet you where you are. And everyone I’ve met who takes classes there accepts everyone else who is there with them. Nobody is better or worse than anyone else because we are all there for the exact same thing: to get better, to get stronger. They offer a nice variety of classes, from personal training to women’s only classes to couple’s boxing to kettlebell classes to challenging and enjoyable boxing fitness classes. But one of their biggest programs, that I honestly don’t know a ton about, is their Rock Steady Boxing program which is designed specifically for people living with Parkinson’s. I stepped way, way out of my comfort zone a little over a year ago when I took my first boxing class at K-Fit and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my whole life. The physical progress I’ve made, the people I’ve met, and the confidence I’ve gained have been life changing in the best ways possible. If you live out near me and you’ve wanted to find a physical fitness program that will be something challenging that you love, you really should check out K-Fit Boxing!

My first boxing picture — taken about a year ago.
Convinced my daughter to come to boxing class with me one Saturday morning when she was in town visiting.
An example of how I improved: when I first came to K-Fit, I couldn’t hold a plank for even 10 seconds. Then one night, Anne snapped a picture of me doing THIS — whaaaaat????
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