Saturday, February 25, 2017

Losing Weight While Teaching


I've struggled with my weight my entire life. I've tried every diet out there...Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Atkins, 21 Day Fix, Whole 30...you name it. I'd lose weight, I'd gain it back and then I'd gain it back and then some. Twice in my life I've gotten down to a size that I feel comfortable with (21 and 32) but both times I stayed at that weight less than a year.

When I started teaching I poured all of my energy and time into work. I stayed up until all hours of the night grading papers and writing lessons. I had no time for sleep or the gym for that matter. All I did was work. You don't need me to tell you how stressful teaching is and like many of us I'm a stress eater.

Early in my career I got 4-5 hours of sleep a night and sometimes less. Any doctor will tell you that to lose weight you need to sleep. I'm not a coffee drinker so I started drinking diet coke daily. I would even drink it before teaching. (The thought of having soda at 7 am now grosses me out but I did that for a long time.)

When I was 28 I was at my heaviest and I met a guy who was an athlete and we started dating. Through his encouragement I started going to the gym. At first I went one day a week (one of the weekend days) and then I went twice a week. After 6 months of working out I stopped losing weight so I joined weight watchers. At that point I was going to the gym 4-6 days a week. I was on the program for 3+ years and I was going to the gym on a regular basis. I was down 94 pounds on my 32nd birthday.

Shortly after that I sustained a serious knee injury and I had to stop working out. I was still following weight watchers and my first week out of the gym I gained 8 pounds. I was weighing and measuring my food and I gained weight. That led to discouragement and then I was completely off the program.

Fast forward a few years and I had some serious health issues that I'm not going to get into. After I was better I went to the doctor and to my shock and utter dismay I weighed even more than I had in my late 20's. Here I was 36 and I had tried and failed every diet I had heard of. My doctor basically told me I'd be dead in 10 years if I kept gaining weight.

Fear is exactly what I needed. So I started seeing a nutritionist. I had blood work done and my nutritionist designed a diet that fit my needs. A nutritionist is not covered by my insurance so I only went to her once a month. I cut out soda which was huge for me. I cut back on carbs and I ate more protein and vegetables. I started working out again slowly. It's much harder to lose weight in your 30's than it is in your 20's.

This is what I have been following for the past year and a half:
  • I eat at least 60 grams of protein every day 
  • I eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day (I don't have more than 2 servings of fruit a day.)
  • I drink 6-8 glasses of water a day
  • I eat complex carbs (brown rice, whole wheat bread, etc) but I don't eat carbs with dinner or after dinner.
  • I take vitamins daily
I have a major sweet tooth and I eat sugar free Popsicles and sugar free jello when I have my cravings. They taste pretty good. When I'm in the mood for chocolate I have sugar free pudding.

I try to avoid drinks that are high in sugar but every now and then I'll have some juice to satisfy a sugar craving. It's better for me to have a glass of juice that has vitamins in it than a piece of cake or some other sugary treat.

I eat Oh Yeah protein bars after the gym because they are high in protein and have only one gram of sugar. I also eat almonds as a snack (raw almonds not the salty ones).

I go to the gym every Saturday and Sunday. When I have the energy (it varies) I go during the week. Some weeks I have way too much work and other weeks are better. I know myself. I know that if I go home after work I'll never go to the gym. So I keep my gym bag in the car. Also going straight after work is better because the gym is less crowded and if I work out too late I have problems falling asleep.

I'm far from perfect. Every now and then I indulge but I need to do this for my health. I love to cook but with a job that takes over all of your "free" time you can't always cook. I have a few solutions for that:
  • I cook a lot of meals that only take 20-30 minutes. I find tons of these recipes on Pinterest.
  • I cook a lot on the weekends. I have a lot of containers and I portion out meals. This way I have lunch or dinner ready to go. This also saves money because when I'm too tired to cook I won't buy take out. 
  • I use a crockpot. It's very easy to throw some ingredients in my crockpot in the morning and dinner cooks while I'm at work. There are a ton of healthy slow cooker meals online.
  • I make grilled chicken in bulk. I have mastered the art of throwing together a salad in 5 minutes. As long as I stick to a vinaigrette dressing and I avoid fattening things like croutons this is an easy fix for dinner or lunch.

I save money by cooking. I have co-workers that eat out daily. In NYC that's easily $10 a day. I have a Brita pitcher at home. Buying a filter every couple of months is cheap enough. Now that I primarily drink water this also saves money. Sometimes I'll add a slice of lemon or lime to my water.

I've lost 73 pounds in the past year and a half. I still have a long way to go but I'm not giving up on myself.

Things I need to work on: drinking more water, sleeping more and my sugar addiction.

I accept my flaws and I keep going.




Saturday, February 11, 2017

Literacy Letters

When I was a kid I used to write letters. I guess it started when I was 11 and in sleepaway camp. I made friends that didn't live nearby and calling them was expensive. We didn't have email or text messaging back then. In some ways I miss letter writing. Now when I check my mail box it's either junk or bills. I used to love getting letters in the mail.

Last year I was talking to a friend of mine that I used to work with. She moved upstate and sometimes we chat on FB messenger or text about what books we're teaching and we'll share ideas, handouts, etc. We were both teaching Macbeth so we decided to do literacy letters. I had my students start. They each wrote a handwritten letter to a student about the book and then they shared a little about themselves. I read the letters before mailing a nice big envelope upstate to my friend's school.

It took time but I remember the day I got a big envelope and started handing letters out in my classroom. The kids were so excited to get handwritten letters from other teenagers.

We wrote back and forth a few times. Suddenly I started hearing that my kids were playing X-Box against her kids and they were friends on Facebook and following each other on Instagram. One of my students was concerned that a boy talked about owning guns in his letter (he was into hunting). I tried explaining to her that deer hunting was popular upstate. Being an inner city kid is very different from a kid from the country. I meant for my students to discuss literature and although the conversations took on a life of their own I found this assignment to be a success that I'd like to try again sometime.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Kindness Matters

Every year I do an anti-bullying unit. Sometimes I find relevant articles about teens who have been bullied, sometimes I show YouTube videos about bullying, a few times I've shown the film Bowling for Columbine because it discusses the possibility that the boys who did the shooting were picked on and bulled in high school. Many people teach anti-bullying units in October and just last year I learned about Pink Shirt Day which is in February.

Certain books that I've taught also lend themselves to discussing bullying in school. One book that I've taught 8 or 9 times is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. In the young adult novel Speak the main character Melinda is bullied because she called the police at a party and a lot of people got in trouble for underage drinking. The novel traces Melinda through her entire freshman year and it deals with not just bullying but depression, rape and suicide as well. Another popular book that deals with bullying in schools is the novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I haven't had a chance to teach this novel yet but I'm looking forward to it. I think it will bring up meaningful classroom discussion.

Whenever I start discussing bullying in school I always have one student (or more) that says, "bullying doesn't happen in this school." Sadly they're wrong and I can list a few examples I've witnessed over the years.

Kids have always been cruel but it's gotten progressively worse with technology and social media. When I was in high school I remember seeing a senior knock some books out of the hands of a 9th grader. I heard some name calling but it wasn't anything horrible. I don't remember what year it was but I remember in the beginning of my career there were two seniors that broke up and apparently the girl had texted the boy a naked photo. He printed out many copies of the picture and posted them all over school with some words I won't be using in my blog but I'm sure your imagination can fill in the blanks. Her parents pressed charges and it would have been worse if they both hadn't been 18. The girl ended up transferring to another school to finish her last few months of high school. In NYC there are so many schools it's easy to transfer.

The 2010-2011 school year was the worst school year for cyberbullying that I ever witnessed in my career. A group of students (no one knows how many) started a Facebook group where students were prompted to post pictures and make fun of people in the school. Many girls were bad-mouthed for being easy (that's not the word they used) and other people were called ugly, gay, fat, etc. I'm sure there was more, I never saw the page myself. What I do remember is that there were 26 fights in my school in one month because of that Facebook group.

The worst of these fights happened right before Christmas Break and resulted in a security guard and an assistant principal getting injured. I had students arrested during that fight. I didn't witness it because I was teaching when we went into lockdown. The principal involved the police and they were able to trace the computer where the Facebook group was created. That one student took the blame for everything even though everyone knew it was more than one person that created that group. He was just the unlucky one whose computer was used.

Two years ago a similar incident happened on Instagram. One of my students created an account and she posted pictures of people in the school making fun of them. She was suspended for about a month but I don't think her punishment was harsh enough. I saw some of the printouts and she wrote some awful things and encouraged others to do the same.

How can we as teachers foster kindness in our classroom? We can show films, read books, read articles and hold discussions. The truth of the matter is, we have to lead by example. I go out of my way to be nice to everyone even if they're mean to me. I work in a poor area and many of these kids view kindness as a weak trait. I find that sad but I'm not changing who I am. I will always treat others how I want to be treated.

I created my Kindness Quotes Task Cards so that I could force students to think critically and analyze an array of quotes about being a kind person. I hope that these quotes foster a positive learning environment. I hope that the discussions that come out as a result of these task cards are meaningful. I've always enjoyed using quotes in my classroom.

The Kindness Quotes Task Cards are free in my TpT store.



I know that many teens today face bigger challenges than my generation did. We have to do everything in our power to try to lead them down the right path. Hopefully we can show them being kind isn't a sign of weakness and they should choose kindness.






Thank you The ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures for hosting this blog hop.



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Playing Educational Games in The Secondary Classroom

Some people think that playing educational games in the classroom is only for elementary school. Some people think that with all the mandates from state exams and getting ready for college that the secondary classroom has to be boring to be rigorous.

I teach in the inner city and my students need fun and innovative ways to learn. Students today don't have the attention span that students had when I was growing up. You can blame technology for that. Although my generation had TV and video games, I was in the generation that went through high school without the internet and definitely without cell phones. Although technology makes life much easier I am thankful that I grew up in a time-period before it took over our lives.

For the most part my students dislike reading. One thing I have always done is create Jeopardy review games before unit tests. I used to do this by hand and write on my chalkboard (go ahead and laugh). In 2012 I got a smartboard in my room and all of a sudden I was able to take my teaching to the next level. I use the website http://www.superteachertools.us/jeopardyx/ to create my own jeopardy games. You can save them on your account or simply email yourself the link. I love this site. You can also find games on there already. You can create other games on that site as well.

The NY State Exam (The Regents) has literary terms on it. Literary terms are also part of the Common Core State Standards. My students have always struggled remembering these terms. This is why I always have a word wall in my room with these terms. Last year I created a Literary Terms Bingo Game for my 11th graders. We played it on a day before a vacation early in the year. I gave out free homework passes as prizes. The kids had so much fun that we ended up playing the game (by request) every time we had either a half day or it was the day before vacation. I ended up posting this review game in my TpT Store.









Jeopardy had always been my go to for review games but to be honest with some classes the game got too loud. Playing with two teams sometimes leads to students making fun of each other when they win. When playing bingo it's every man (or woman) for themselves. This school year I decided to create bingo games to review difficult works of literature. Since my students have always struggled with Shakespeare I decided to start with that. So far I've created bingo review games for five of Shakespeare's plays. They're a fun way to review characters, symbols and terms in the plays. I plan on making more of these review games in the future for other works of literature.
















There's no reason why students can't have fun and learn at the same time no matter what age they are. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Argumentative Writing and The SEE Method

The common core places an emphasis on argumentative writing. In NYC high school students take a city-wide exam every year called the MOSL (measure of student learning) exam and that test has an argumentative essay on it. The NY state exam (The Regents) that students need to pass in order to graduate high school also has an argumentative essay on it.

My students struggled with their writing no matter how many times we practiced this style of essay in class. I tried picking topics that were relevant to them:

Should cellphones be allowed in school?
Should students have to wear uniforms?
Should minimum wage be increased?

Finally another teacher and I came up with a mnemonic device that was easy to remember and it worked every time. We called this The SEE Method.

What is the SEE Method?

  • The SEE Method is just a way for us to remember what we need to include in each body paragraph that we write.
  • One reason why this method is so great is that it is easy to remember, plus it's short and to the point.
I keep this up on chart paper in my classroom: 

State Your Claim
Provide Evidence
Explain Your Evidence
We use the SEE method to help us craft arguments. 




 I hope that you can use this method to help your students with their argumentative writing.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Secondary ELA Seasonal Blog Hop: Juggling ELA Shares Her Favorite Scary Story That She Teaches

This is my favorite time of the year. The leaves are changing color, I can wear my comfy sweaters and Halloween is just around the corner. Halloween is my favorite holiday and I like to celebrate it all month long. All of my students know that I have a bit of an obsession with Halloween.

I like to start off with a scary story unit and I end with my students writing their own scary stories. I have taught numerous scary stories over the years but here is a list of some of my favorites.

"The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs

"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

"A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner

"The Bad Babysitter" by R.L. Stine

I love to teach basically anything by Edgar Allan Poe, but my absolute favorite scary story to teach is "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe.


There are many things that I love about "The Tell-Tale Heart." A lot of my students read below grade level and many of Poe's stories have archaic language in them. I find "The Tell-Tale Heart" to be more accessible than some of Poe's other tales. The story is fairly short so you can teach it in 2 or 3 class periods. I've successfully used this story in grades 9-12 but it can work with 7th or 8th grade classes that are advanced.

I find the plot of "The Tell-Tale Heart" to be absolutely terrifying. Can you imagine thinking that someone is your friend and your roommate (or boarder) and they're plotting your murder? Just thinking about it gives me the chills. One thing that I love to point out to my students is that in this story (and other Poe tales) the protagonist is an evil/crazy man. Most of my students think of the protagonist as the "good guy." When I teach multiple stories by Poe I like to compare and contrast his narrators.

In honor of my favorite holiday, I have teamed up with some other secondary ELA teachers from TpT to have both a blog hop and a two day sale. We all have 20% off on our Halloween products 10/16/16 and 10/17/16. Take advantage of these low prices to find items that will help you have a hauntingly good time in your ELA classes.


Check out everyone's blog and look at their sale items. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

I promise it won't be a year before I write another blog post :-)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Juggling ELA's Spooktacular Giveaway



Halloween is my favorite time of the year. In my classroom I start by teaching stories by Edgar Allan Poe ("The Tell-Tale Heart" is my favorite) and I end with my students using my Halloween Short Story Starters Task Cards to create their own scary stories. Sometimes I'll use other short stories like "The Monkey's Paw" or "The Bad Babysitter" as well.

Last month I reached 1000 followers on my Facebook page and to celebrate I decided to have this giveaway. Some of the fabulous English teachers from TpT have volunteered to donate Fall or Halloween themed prizes for this giveaway.

There will be two winners. One winner will win a $25 gift card to TpT. The second winner will receive a bundle of ELA resources from 17 different TpT stores.

Prizes include:

Halloween ELA Bundle

Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" Activity Pack

Text Analysis - Outside the Box Project

Short Stories - Writing Activities Bundle

Halloween Career Project

Short Story Choice Board No Prep Use With Any Story

The Tell-Tale Heart, Poe - Close Reading Unit, Halloween Appropriate

Halloween Grammar Worksheets

Halloween Writing for Teens: Choice Menu with 40 Prompts

Tell-Tale Heart (test; essay questions; detailed answer key)

Halloween Writing

"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe Task Cards

Halloween Zombies Ate My Teacher! Creative & Narrative Writing Scenarios

R.A.C.E Writing Strategy Interactive Flip Book: For Teachers and Students

Halloween Bell Ringers: Text-Based Conventions Practice

Nonfiction Close Reading - September 11 Memorial Museum

Halloween Activities for Secondary ELA

If you have any questions let me know. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.
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