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Changing Education One Post At A Time

Apr-17-2014

The Web Is A Nasty Place

Posted by Tim under Personal

There I was.  Just minding my own business.  Blogging occasionally as I felt the need to get something off my chest or just attempt to be funny.  Life was good.  Life was carefree.  And the Internet was my friend.

Then I got a Facebook message from a friend who alerted me to possible spam in my blogs.  I went online and took a look.  There was nothing on this page that looked out of the ordinary.  I took a look under the hood to see if I could find anything suspicious.

(I was quite naive then…)

She sent me a screenshot of what she was seeing.  It was obvious something was there.  I explained that the problem might be a Chrome extension on her computer that was causing this to happen.  She just sort of shrugged her shoulders, apologized for bothering me, and that was that.

A couple of weeks later I got the same message from another friend.  She was seeing the same thing.  Only this time she said it was showing up in Feedly.  Feedly is an RSS feed reader I use daily.  I went to my own blog in Feedly (who reads his own blog, right?).  Sure enough, there was the problem.  It was real.

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 6.42.16 AMTo make a long, and painfully expensive, story short. I contacted my web hosting service and asked them to take a look.  They assured me that, yes, there was malware installed on my site.  I had 3 days to remove it or they would take my site down until it was cleaned.

I contacted SiteLock, the company that partners with my web hosting firm, Netfirms.  I paid the money to have 100 pages looked at.  Out of 100 pages, 97 of them had this malicious code installed.  I had no choice.  I paid more money to have my entire site cleaned and guarded.

I was paying about $10 a month to host my site (along with the sites of a few others at no extra charge).  I shut all the other sites down.  I now pay the $10 a month to host my site, and I pay an additional $90 a month to keep it safe.  I have no idea how long I can continue with that.  I may have to rethink the entire thing before its over.

You can see from the graphic that 96% of the traffic coming to my site is bots trying to find a vulnerability to exploit.  Over 5,000 attempts to reinsert themselves into my site have been blocked in just one week.

And this is happening over and over and over and over again throughout the web.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m going to keep blogging.  I’m staying online.  The web is the future of my own vocation.

Now, in addition to the age-old cautions of look both ways before you cross the street and never talk to strangers, we have an entire new list.  Be alert. Be vigilant.  Check your email.  Don’t click links you don’t know about.  Don’t respond to friend requests from people you don’t know. Set strong passwords.  Change your passwords often.  Don’t use the same password everywhere.  The list goes on and on…

But the web is a nasty place at times.  Acknowledgement is the first step in solving the problem.

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Apr-13-2014

The Testing Autopsy

Posted by Tim under Assessment

I love old Law and Order episodes best.  While there are many great episodes throughout all the years it was filming, those first few episodes are still my favorites.  So, imagine my surprise when I ran across an early episode I had never seen before.  I was doubly surprised by this courtroom exchange between the prosecutor (P) and the medical examiner (ME):

P: Dr., were you able to determine the cause of death?

ME: Yes. The victim was killed by a knife.

P: Were you able to determine the kind of knife used?

ME: Yes.

P: Would you describe the knife to the courtroom?

ME: No.

P: <pause – shocked expression> I’m sorry.  Did you say you will not describe the knife to the courtroom?

ME: That is correct.

P: Would you care to explain why you will not do so?

ME: Certainly.  You see, as a medical examiner I am able to determine with great accuracy the knife blade used, the size of the blade, its shape, even the handle in most cases.  But I am not at liberty to share that information with the public, much less the jury, because we don’t want other people to have access to information about this knife in case they try to copy it or otherwise infringe on its individual attributes.

P: Your Honor, would you please instruct the witness to respond to my question?

Judge: Dr., you are under oath.  I’m afraid you will have to comply.

ME: I think not, your honor.  I don’t mean to be disrespectful in any way.  But it is enough to know that death was caused by a knife.  The exact type of knife is irrelevant to the lay person.  The length of blade, the type of cut, and even where the cut was placed are all privileged information.  Consider them data points collected by my office.  If other people had access to the information we are collecting, how it was collected, and even what we were doing with it, then the data is no longer reliable.

Yeah, OK, you know I made that up.  Its silly, right?  Stupid even?

For information to have any value at all, you have to be able to look at it in context, examine it closely, and see if your hypothesis is correct.

But standardized testing is done much the same way as the conversation above.

Students are given a test at the end of the year.  Teachers are instructed to not look at the test.  As a result, when we get our information back, we find out what happened with a student we will (most of the time) never see again, but we don’t know the whys or the hows or the what ifs.  Its just a number.

And that number does little to help us with the kids coming into our classes next year.

Formative assessments on the other hand, offer great insight into how a class, or an individual student, is doing during instructional time while we have an opportunity to adjust, modify, reteach, remediate, and reassess.  I’m used to using Discovery Education Assessment, but there are others out there that do similar things.

After the assessments are over, I can look at each question.  I can see what it was asking.  I can compare that to how a student answered the question and gain great insight into what was going on in the students’ minds a the time.  We can have a discussion about what would have changed if they had approached the question differently.  We can try other practice questions.

Formative assessments of this type not only tell me how kids are doing on standards I’ve taught, but they also assess what students know about standards I haven’t taught.  As a result, I have time plan and prepare before we get to a section of material.  Maybe the entire class did well enough that I just need to spend two days instead of the five I had set aside.  Or perhaps I need to make adjustments because I realize there is a specific section I need to cover more slowly.

If I’m a juror in a murder trial, I want to know what kind of knife was used, how prevalent is that knife in society, where can it be bought, whose fingerprints were on it, where was it found, or perhaps out of the multiple stab wounds, which was the one that actually caused death.  But I don’t want someone to just tell me “it was a knife.”

The testing autopsy is no different.  Give me data I can use.  Give me data I can use now.  Give me data I can use with the kids I’m teaching today.

Perhaps collecting data on student knowledge isn’t the problem.  Perhaps the problem is that we are collecting nearly useless information by performing the wrong autopsy.

 

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Apr-8-2014

New Life in Spring Time

Posted by Tim under Personal

Spring Time is supposed to be a wonderful time of the year.  And, in many respects, I suppose it is.  The grass is coming back to life.  Trees are blooming.  Flowers are peaking back out of the ground to see if its safe to raise their dainty little heads up into the sunlight.  Yes, there is a lot to admire in Spring.

For teachers, however, we are in the middle of the most hectic, hair-graying, coffee-guzzling, throat-clenching time of the year.  State mandated standardized tests loom on the horizon like a cloud the size of a man’s hand.  We watch it grow and darken and cover the earth until the lightning flashes and the thunder claps and the rain of bubble sheets descend on our classrooms in a deluge of unwanted craziness.

Graduation is getting nearer every day.  And those kids who are just now realizing they might not graduate are about to understand that 12 or more years of education is suddenly getting very real up in here.

And then there is prom, end-of-school field trips, parent conferences, decisions on who gets to return to our magnet school next year and who doesn’t, scheduling for next year, re-scheduling half the students who changed their minds after the first round, and re-scheduling another half of the already re-scheduled who decided they really wanted the original schedule when they first scheduled the schedule with the scheduler.

And so it was with some trepidation that I entered the Commons of our school last night to meet our first round of in-coming 9th graders and their parents.  I was tired already and the night hadn’t started yet.  After all, I’m still trying to write up notes from observations that took place 3 weeks ago in order to show that they are actually finished even though the online evaluation system proclaims they are not.  My kingdom for an online evaluation reporting system that truly understands me!!!

But I digress.

I watched as students and parents looked over the limited options for 9th graders.  After all, with state mandated requirements for graduation, students are already plugged into English, Math, Science, Social Studies, a foreign language and Wellness.  When you add in our own required elective (that’s an educational oxymoron of which we are quite proud – required electives) of STEM 1, incoming 9th graders get to choose one class.

But that one class tells us so much about that child.  If they quickly and easily fill in Art 1 or Band or Orchestra or Choir, we know that the arts are important to them.  Something important also to STEM studies.  If they go for Theater Arts right away, we can look forward to fun times ahead as they entertain us before school or during lunch.  And if they look at the list and ask why they can’t have this other class reserved for 10th graders, we have an inkling of the push back their teachers may get when assignments don’t make sense to them.

Yes, that one course choice tells us a lot.

But more than that, looking at the faces of students and parents as they look at each other in bewilderment, is comforting to me.  No, not in a bad way.  The parents look at their children in a way as if to ask, “Who are you?  When did you get this big?  Will you still love me next year?”  The students look at their parents and think, “I am scared to death, but as long as you appear confident I’m OK.”

These young men and women are like the flowers peaking their heads up out of the soil to look around and see if it is safe to grow again.  It is the springtime of their high school beginning.

And as I drove back home last night, I smiled slightly at the satisfaction of, once again, finding new life in springtime.

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Apr-7-2014

Gratefulness

Posted by Tim under Personal

This past Friday I was honored to attend the funeral of a man known mostly for his unending sense of humor and quick wit.  He had battled long and hard on several health fronts during the last of his 67 years, and while he will be greatly missed, I am grateful that his pain and suffering are finally at an end.

Randy was a former Marine.  I’m not sure Marines use the term “former” to describe themselves.  As the family gathered around the spot in the church’s cemetery where Randy would be laid to rest, the Military Honor Guard stood at the ready.

Nine men stood off to the side, far away from the family.  One had a bugle for Taps.  One would call out the order to fire.  And seven waited for the opportunity to show respect for their fallen brother by firing off a Twenty-One Gun Salute.

From where I stood, they were behind me.  I heard the call to ready.  I hunched my ears down toward my shoulders a bit at the first unexpected clap of rifle fire.  Three times I heard the clinking of brass bouncing on the pavement at their feet.

But it was the two men at each end of the casket that had my focus.  They stood at attention in full salute as the guns cracked.  When quiet had settled in again, they lowered their hands ever so slowly in a sign of respect both for the man laid to rest and for the flag that draped his casket.

Starting at the middle of the casket, they moved their hands outward to smooth out the flag before finding the four corners and carefully, gently, lifting it up and into the air.  I thought for a moment of the flag corps at our school that take their job so seriously as they lower the flags in the afternoon sun, being careful to take their time in honoring this symbol of our freedom.

Once the flag was lifted and held with outstretched arms, the two men slowly side-stepped away from the casket and began the arduous task of folding the flag into a perfect rectangle.  One cradled it in his arms as he made sure that all three points of the triangle were sharp and creased.  When it was handed over, the second but his hands in the center, top and bottom, and slowly twirled it around so that it pointed in the right direction once again.

As this young man knelt before Randy’s widow, he held the flag toward her.  “On behalf of the President, the United States Military, and a grateful nation…”

That scene never ceases to tear me up.  Whether in the movies or at the graveside of a friend, I am touched by the pomp and reverence of that simple act of handing over a flag.

Gratefulness is a habit of heart that is cultivated in the fields of adversity.

I have written often, mostly jokingly, on Facebook of late detailing the negative things that have happened in my life over the last few days and weeks.  The list is long.  So long that one has to laugh at how quickly they have all piled up, one on top of the other, until you feel more like a walking automaton rather than a human being.

And yet, in the middle of a relatively short streak of bad luck, there is so much more good in my life.  So much more wonder.  So much more to smile about.  So much gratefulness.

Cable news would have us believe we are all at each other’s throats every minute of every day.  And if you look at the comments sections of online news stories, you might tend to believe that as people curse and shout and rant and call names… all to people they don’t know and will never meet.

As a nation, we don’t seem very grateful at times.  But then, one by one, the point is driven home in a very personal, private way, when a man or woman we know is gone.

Randy, I am part of that grateful nation that acknowledges the sacrifices you made for our country while serving in the Marines.  I am grateful that you bore the scars of that time so gently in your life.  I am grateful that my heart was always lifted a little higher when encountering your infectious laughter and smile.  I am grateful for the way you took care of Barbara as she also took care of you.  And I’m grateful you loved her children as your own.

Mostly, I’m grateful that you were my friend.

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Mar-20-2014

24 Hours of Near Silence

Posted by Tim under Personal

The doctor said I couldn’t fly for at least 2 weeks.  So I drove to Michigan and MACUL.  My ears were pretty well by this time.   No problem, right?

On the way up I knew I was I in trouble.  I could feel my ears shutting down on me.  This time, however, the problem was primarily the left ear instead of the right.  Evidently, the altitude of driving over the mountains of East Tennessee and Kentucky was also a problem.  I arrived Tuesday.  Wednesday I called my doctor and got another round of antibiotics.  I picked them up on Thursday.

Thursday was D Day.  Deaf Day.

For the most part I felt this intense pressure way down deep inside my ear canal on both sides of my head.  It wasn’t so much pain, as it was pressure.  And it felt like someone was holding pillows up to both ears.  The left ear was completely gone.  I heard nothing out of it.  The right ear was trying its best to hang in there for me.

I have a good friend that is deaf in one ear and has lost partial hearing in the other.  Sometimes he comments on it, but without a real life experience with which to connect it, I could never really appreciate the situation.

That’s changed.  And big time.

Here are just a few things I experienced:

  • People talk to me on my right side could be heard, but they could really only be understood if I could also see them as they talked.  People on my left side, especially people behind me on my left side, might as well be howling at the moon.  I had no idea they were making a noise.
  • There was a clear line of demarcation at my nose.  Slightly to the right, I could hear you.  Slightly to the left…nada.
  • I ordered coffee in a quaint little shop where the walls were brick.  The barista turned away from me to pour my coffee and then turned his head to say something to me over his shoulder.  I heard the sound coming from behind me.  I turned to see who was there.  There was a couple talking in the back where I sat down at a table.  Again, I saw their mouths moving, but their voices were coming from over my right shoulder behind me as the sound bounced off the walls.
  • I wasn’t totally deaf in my left ear.  I distinctly heard ocean waves constantly.  The white noise of deafness was maddening.
  • Listening to music in the car allowed me to only hear sound from the right rear speakers.  I heard nothing from the front.  And my left ear only reverberated with the bass thumping around inside my head.  It was like the bass guitar had a track all its own reserved just for my left ear.

My friend has a difficult time in restaurants.  I understand why.  The background noise of people talking and music playing makes it nearly impossible to distinguish what is being said to you across the table.  When someone drops and breaks a plate, he cringes.  I now understand that he has no idea where the sound came from.  And its a little frightening.

I think I also understand a bit about my dad’s Uncle Willis.  After his heart attack, he could hardly stand the music in our church.  We had added a drummer and bass player by then.  And it wasn’t just about it being loud.  But the bass bothered him tremendously.

My 24 hours of near silence has given me a whole new level of respect for anyone that thrives in this world with less than the 5 senses most of us are fortunate enough to have.

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Mar-16-2014

Observation Overload

Posted by Tim under Personal, Sarcasm/Fun

One of the downfalls of being an administrator/evaluator/observer in the education system these days is that everything begins to look like an observation.

I thought about this as I made my 3rd trip in 3 weeks to the doctor to have this pesky ear infection looked at.  I was already on round two of antibiotics.  I’ve made this trip before.  They know me.

I think it came to mind when the nurse called my name to go back to the examination room.  I got up and rounded the corner knowing my first stop was the scales to check my weight.  How much can it change in a week, I wondered.  There were 4 chairs along the wall in front of the scales.  Only one was occupied.  The one directly in front of the scale.  The one that made it difficult to get on the thing.  And the guy was wearing a mask (and removed from the general population of the waiting room) because he didn’t need to be breathing germs.  What an awkward place to have someone sit, I wondered, when the other chairs wouldn’t put him directly in the path of every single solitary patient that comes into the office.

And that’s when the administrator kicked in.  And the observation began.  You can see the script written in my head below.

  • 9:15 – Nurse calls me back to the exam room.  Even though she has my chart, the scale is not set anywhere near my weight.  She has to add pounds to the lever making me feel overweight all over again.
  • 9:20 – Nurse asks me why I’m here, which is odd because I was told to come in today to let the doctor look at my ears.  I tell her this is my 3rd trip back.  She asks if I still have an infection.  I answer yes, as I said, that’s why I’m here.  She asks if I’m on any medications.  I answer yes, but in my head I’m wondering why she has my chart with her if she isn’t going to look at it.
  • 9:22 – The nurse asks me which ear is bothering me.  That seems legitimate since it is the opposite ear from the one I was here with previously.  I explain that it is my left ear primarily.
  • 9:23 – The nurse takes my blood pressure.  Does not offer any academic feedback on what it is.  It has been high the last two times I’ve been in, but I keep quiet.  There is no formative assessment results offered, so I assume my score is average.  I’m not sure she knows how to read the BP cuff.
  • 9:25 – The nurse looks at my ears with the flashlight scope and tells me the doctor will be in shortly.

I’m not here to observe the doctor, so I’ll skip the part where he tells me that he thinks I need to have an ear irrigation to get rid of built up wax and some blood that had caked in there from the infection.

  • 9:45 – The nurse returns to start the ear irrigation.  She puts on the appropriate gloves and gets out a 409 bottle type thing to fill it up with warm water.  She attempts to look in my ears again with the flashlight scope.  The technology doesn’t work.  She bangs it against her hand a couple of times and then leaves the room.
  • 9:48 – The nurse returns with, what I assume is, another flashlight scope.  It comes on, and then goes off as she gets close to my ear.  She bangs it against her hand again and says, “Oh, my gosh…”  Finally it works.  I notice the door is not completely shut and wonder about the impact of HIPPA if someone should walk by and see me.
  • 9:49 – The nurse puts a plastic cup against my head just under my ear and asks me to hold it there.  She tells me to let her know if I’m in pain.  And then the pulsing of a jet stream of water begins to hit the inside of my ear.  It actually feels good, and I close my eyes to enjoy getting to spots Q-tips can’t reach.
  • 9:50 – The nurse removes the cup from my head and shows it to me.  “We’re getting a lot of yucky stuff out of there.” The cup is filled with water and bits of floating wax and blood.  I’m not sure the feedback is age appropriate.  I’ll have to consult my 3-ring binder, volume 4, section 73 to find out.
  • 9:52 – The nurse moves to the other ear, the really bad ear.  Again the pulsing jets of water feel good.  Once more she shows me the results of her work.  Assessments are good, but too many of the same thing lead to boredom.  I look, nod my approval, but I’m not as excited by it as I was with the first ear.
  • 9:54 – The nurse gets the flashlight scope to look at her handiwork.  Again it does not work.  She fiddles with the adjustments, bangs it a few times, and it comes on.  I make a mental note that nurses should make sure all technology is in working order before being evaluated by patients.
  • 9:55 – The nurse says, “The doctor will be back in a few minutes,” and leaves the room without another word.  I wondered if the procedure would have been improved by an exit ticket of some sort, or at least a closing activity before everything comes to abrupt halt.

Now, while all of the above are actual events that happened today, I must make a note that this was “substitute” nurse.  The nurse regularly working with my doctor was not there today.  As a result, this nurse is being evaluated on a patient that is not ordinarily hers.  You know, kind of like teachers who get evaluation scores based on students that never enter their classroom.

This ordeal taught me one very important truth.  Spring Break couldn’t have come at a better time.  I need to find my life again.  I’m definitely in Observation Overload.

 

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Mar-10-2014

Digging My Way Out

Posted by Tim under Personal

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activities, both good and not-so-good.  Among the many things to suffer is this blog.  It is so unattended, like a garden grown up with weeds, or like the shrubs around my house.

To say that I am behind in nearly every aspect of my existence is to put it mildly.  And it has never been any more true than after the last week from H-E-Double-Toothpicks.

I had a great time at the ICE conference in Chicago.  I was already behind when I got there, but there was a glimmer of hope that things would take an uptick.  My half-day workshop on creating more engaging presentations went well.  I stumbled through the Somersaulting the Classroom presentation after a couple of technology mishaps.  Everyone seemed to forgive my few faulty steps along the way.

Other than Gino’s Pizza, I was doing pretty well with my plan to eat better.  I even got on the treadmill at the resort in an effort to keep getting those 10,000 steps every day.

And that’s when it got bad.

Evidently, using my earbuds on the treadmill gave me “swimmer’s ear.”  As my ear started hurting, it also started itching.  I scratched it hard enough to break the skin.  That’s when the swelling started.  On the flight home it closed up completely.  Before I could get to the doctor, I made an ill-fated decision to try to blow my nose.

Did you know that you need an open ear canal to blow your nose?  Huh.

So, in that single moment I blew my eardrum out. <insert laugh track here>.  Over the next few days as I pushed in ear drops and swallowed antibiotics, the pain was so intense at times I would wake myself up at night moaning in agony.

Well, to make a long story short, all those things that were already behind wound up buried under an avalanche of other things that were now behind.

This weekend saw an improvement.  In my health.  In the weather.  In my general attitude toward life.  I got out and took some pictures for a photo challenge, and that was fun.  I got back on track with my eating.  I got back on the treadmill.

Today, I’m posting a blog.  No, it doesn’t have a point, but that didn’t stop Seinfeld from being an international sensation for a decade or better.  Well, ok, maybe it does have a point.

I’m digging my way out.

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Feb-17-2014

Like or Not Like… That Is The Question

Posted by Tim under Assessment

I study assessment. Yes, I pursued a failed PhD in Assessment and Evaluation, but it doesn’t take a doctorate to figure out a few things about effective and ineffective assessment.

When I was in the English classroom, my kids did a little writing from time to time. They wrote. I read. They edited. I re-read. I graded. They griped. And ultimately papers were filed in trash cans as the kids walked out of the classroom.

We were just on the cusp of an interactive web at that time. Technology integration was moving handouts to PowerPoint slides. A far cry from what is available now.

Just a few days ago I put together my first SnapGuide tutorial on making a healthy breakfast burrito. Yeah. Rocket science, right?

I could have written a 5 paragraph essay that would be read by my teacher. I could have sent out an email to a few of my friends I know are looking for this type of information. But I didn’t.

I made a burrito. I took some pictures of each step with my phone. I put them into the SnapGuide app.

And then I posted it out into the great unknown of cyberspace.

It’s been out there just a few days now. It’s been viewed about 450 times. It has 47 “Likes.” That’s 10%

And 10% appreciation from total strangers is more ubiquitous as a pat on the back than a red 100% written by a single teacher.

So here are the key questions. How are you doing assessment with your kids? Is it authentic? Is it real world? Does it utilize the tools they know? Does it allow for creative thought and planning? Who is doing the grading? Who is reading their work?

Like or not Like…that IS the question.

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Posted from my iPhone. I apologize for any misspellings or faulty formatting.

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Feb-12-2014

Hiding Underneath

Yesterday was not a good “Diet” day for me.  I did not control my water intake at all.  Every time my “WaterMinder” app signaled it was time for more water, I would ignore it and go about whatever was on my immediate to do list at the time.

As a result, my best laid plans for eating right were utterly crushed when I allowed my body to lie to me and tell me I was hungry when, in fact, I was actually thirsty.  Its a common mistake I make all too often.  Sometimes I blame the job.  Most of the time its simply a lack of discipline on my part.

Regardless, my day was pretty well shot on the eating side yesterday.  So, when I got back into Cleveland at around 9:30 last night I stopped by a local establishment to get something to eat and relax a bit before going home where, for all intents and purposes, I would be iced in for the next day or two.

As I looked over the menu, I tried to at least keep my order simple (although extremely fattening).  I settled on a simple grilled cheese sandwich.  How hard that can be, right?  I’ll get that, scarf it down, head home, and crawl into bed after a very long day.  Problem solved.

I had a new waitress.  You know the scenario.  Probably her very first day on the job.  So I smiled and gave her my drink order while I looked over the menu.  When she brought that and timidly asked for my order, I smiled my best reassuring smile and ordered the grilled cheese.  Then I settled in to Words with Friends, Facebook, and Twitter on my phone.

I knew I had a problem when my regular waitress approached the table.  She asked if my drink order had been delivered correctly.  I assured her it had.  Then I learned that the new girl had put the wrong drink order into the computer system.  No real problem for me, right?  I got what I ordered.  I went back to burying my face in my phone.

I looked up expectantly when I saw a plate being carried to my table.  I smiled and said, “Thank y…..uh, this is not my order,” as I looked a plate overflowing with a grilled chicken sandwich and fries.  I reminded her that I ordered grilled cheese, not grilled chicken.  A common mistake in a place blaring loud music and filled with people trying to talk over it.

She apologized.  I smiled.  And I went halfheartedly back to my phone screen while also paying attention to what was going on around me.   I could tell she was scared, or nervous, or both.  She had to call a manager over to explain her mistake and fix it in the computer.  So I put my best hey-I’m-ok-don’t-sweat-it face on.  She continually came by to ask if I was ok.  She apologized profusely each time.  She kept telling me my order would be ready soon.

And, although I was highly irritated (and expressed some of that in my normal catty way on Facebook to draw a few laughs and comments from my pain), I kept smiling and reassuring her that I was fine.

At one point, about 45 minutes into this fiasco, I almost left.  I was tired.  Food was no longer important. I was impatient.  This had never happened to me at this establishment.  I’m sure you’ve been there.  I’ve certainly left for less at other places.

Finally, when my food came she apologized again and explained that while I was waiting one of their cooks had just walked off the job and the kitchen was slammed.  Now, in time, I’m sure she will learn to explain to customers what is going on.  I’m sure she will think to have a manager come over and speak to a guest who hasn’t had the best service.  She might even attempt to take something off the bill of a person who waits an hour for a grilled cheese sandwich.

None of that happened last night.  And when I learned what was going on behind scenes, the scenario hiding underneath the viewable show, I was glad I hadn’t walked out.  I immediately thought of the harm that could have done to this trainee.

As a result, I enjoyed my grilled cheese sandwich.  I put aside my disgust with myself for once again eating something filled with fat and gooey wasted calories.  And I watched this girl try to get over the butterflies in her stomach and go on about her job.

I wound up leaving a $12 tip on an $8 bill.

And then, on the way home, I wondered how many times this same scenario played out in my classes.  Kids don’t get their homework done.  They didn’t study for a test.  They wrote a really awful essays in what I know is my highest level class.  They act out.  They get loud.  They are angry.  They smart off.  They sleep.

And I thought of how many times I had reacted badly.  I heaped on guilt. I punished them with silence. I ignored their raised hands.

But if I had been paying attention, instead of having my face buried in the screen of my own life, I might have been more caring.  More understanding.  More helpful.  And given them a $12 tip for $8 of learning.

It pays to know what’s hiding underneath.

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Feb-6-2014

Plateaus

Posted by Tim under Health, Personal

I am a firm believer that there is life and death in every decision.  In every action.  You could say there is both good and bad, but I find the words life and death to work best in emphasizing most decisions.  I’ve written about this before.  The decision to earn a master’s degree while teaching a full load at a middle school has both life and death in the action.  There is life because the degree means a pay increase, and that could lead to a better quality of life.  It opens doors for promotions.  But there is death because it takes time away from your family.  It means late nights.  Often, it means increased debt before increased pay.

The key to feeling successful is making decisions that carry more life than death.

Certain words have both life and death meanings associated with them as well. Plateau is one of those words.

When you are out hiking with a full backpack of gear (including your camera and tripod even if that means food has to be left behind), coming up on a plateau is often a good thing.  Its simply a level piece of ground where the upward trudge can ease up a bit.  Perhaps the backpack comes off and a fallen tree becomes a nice resting bench.  Or, if you are truly lucky, it is on an outcropping of rock overlooking the most beautiful valley just waiting for you to set up your camera and realize the real reason you are nearly killing yourself on a Saturday morning at sunrise rather than being snuggled up in the comfort of your bed under a nice, warm blanket smelling the aroma of coffee as the Keurig kicks in on its timer and begins to instantly pour the beverage that every fiber of your being is craving while you fight to open your eyelids…

But I digress.

When you are attempting to eat healthier (that means eating less as well), you look forward to getting up in the morning and trudging into the kitchen to get on those scales and bask in the glory of another pound gone.

Until you hit a plateau.  In this case, the word carries more death than life.  A day or two is not so bad.  It is expected that your body will rid itself of excess pounds in varying degrees across a long span of time.  And, there are those times when you plateau on purpose by taking a day or two to indulge in some decadent craving of chocolate or peanut butter.

I’ve hit one.  Can you tell?  Its been a week.  OK, there were a couple of days in the middle of Snowmagedden where I threw caution to the wind and simply enjoyed whatever I wanted to eat.  But I’ve been trying to do better.  OK, trying is a strong word.  I’ve made a feeble attempt to do better.

Yesterday we celebrated our school’s Apple Distinguished School designation.  Apple provided lunch for our senior staff and some visitors.  I could chosen to get the salad from our school’s lunch line.  I could have chosen to eat just half of the turkey sandwich.  I could have chosen to stop when I finished the entire sandwich.  No one forced me to eat the bag of potato chips.  I wasn’t threatened into eating one of the most wonderful cookies I’ve ever put in my mouth.  And that second bag of chips wasn’t necessary at all.

So yes, I’ve hit a plateau.  And it sucks.  So its time to put on my big boy pants, shoulder that backpack, grab another water, and start the descent down that mountain again.

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