Monday, July 27, 2015


Upon waking,
my brain retreats. 
I want
I want
to avoid the inevitable hopelessness
unenviable dread
that seeps through each beginning of each beginning of each day.
I try to lever myself
I try to pry myself
into the day,
but mostly I 
the pull of normalcy in favor of  my comfortable black murk.
On some days,
the sun reaches in and grabs me by the neck.
It's a best friend who refuses 
to watch me wallow when there is 
Outside waiting.
My legs are weighted by two-ton memories and
by thick magnetic mud.
I slog with the sun pulling my neck my arm my heart toward Outside.
If I can navigate this holy map,
make it to my front door, 
dragged along, then
a surfeit of,
glimmers of
a path appear
and grow exponentially into a widening view
this bird
this tree
this weed
this flower
this shadow.
This air
replaces the grey fizz fuzz buzz in my head.
And makes me feel.
The doorway is my magical portal
but it has a combination lock.
I fumble.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Whose Shoulder IS This?

On Sunday, I worked at a Farmer's Market about an hour away, near D.C.

On our way home in the 100 degree heat, the highway was closed for over an hour.

This can bring out the best in people....or the worst.

Who is in charge of the road? This is a public space and our taxes pay for its upkeep.

What are the social norms? Rules?

About 30 minutes into our stalled trip, two cars decided to drive on the shoulder of the road so they wouldn't have to sit in the heat.

The pickup truck right in front of us decided that was NOT acceptable.  He pulled onto the shoulder and blocked them.  A woman in the car started to yell (and I laughed because I sensed drama was coming, and classical music was playing in our truck, and it was just a surreal moment).

The woman from the car got out and went up to the truck to convince him to let them by.  He refused.  So she got in front of his truck. They tried to drive around.  We actually tried to let them get by, but he slowed down so we couldn't do that.
(Contains profanity.)

So.  This is a public space.

Should folks follow social norms, such as not driving on the shoulder? If they don't, should citizens take it into their own hands to force them to?

In this day and age with the prevalence of handguns, I was actually worried that someone might get shot. Luckily, no one did.

What would you have done? 

Monday, July 20, 2015

#AccidentalPumpkin's Rules for Public Spaces

I checked my Homeowner's Association regulation handbook. Nowhere does it have a rule against having a gigantic accidental pumpkin growing in your front yard.

It's not a "public space," but it is governed by public rules.

I have gotten reprimand letters in the past for having a 2X4 leaning on my back fence and for having a broken fence after a storm.  (And when I was really sick, for having grass that made the house look like a crack house needed cutting.)

My neighborhood is unabashedly lower-middle class/middle class.  I chose it for four reasons:

---It was in my daughter's school district
---It was affordable
---It is racially diverse
---I am unabashedly lower-middle class/middle class. These are my peeps. I am their peep. 

I love it here.

The pumpkins I actually planted on my back deck have already died due to fungus.  

The #accidentalpumpkin lives on.

I think she is the weebaby progeny of my Halloween pumpkin last year.  

The townhouse right next door is abandoned.  The front yard has been overtaken by a mass of uber-prickly weeds that are far taller than me.

I could cut them down, although the barbs go right through my gloves.

But I choose not to, because the animals like the cover the weeds provide.  The birds and rabbits and squirrels, and who knows what else - they don't think they are weeds; they think they are a playground.  

I am sure the owner has received numerous reprimand letters.  It has made no difference.

Is this a public space?  Last year my Crazy OCD intense neighbor from a few doors down sprayed the weeds with some awful shit toxic chemicals.  I was so pissed off incensed.  The weeds are not even close to her freakin house.  And I don't use that crap toxic chemicals near my half run-down shack abode.  "She just couldn't stand to look at them anymore." Ironically, the weeds came back even stronger after she sprayed.  So we got have to weeds AND chemicals. #thankyou #karma

This accidental pumpkin has grabbed on for dear life to everything it can entwine. 
My yard is the size of a postage stamp.  The accidental pumpkin covers a significant portion.

When I mowed the lawn today, I planned to pick the vine up and trim under it so I didn't get another  letter from the HOA.  But it has grabbed onto the grass all along its length.  So I carefully trimmed around it.

I love this pumpkin.

I thought, "Perhaps I should put a little protective fence around it." 

The kids in my neighborhood like to roll down my hill while shooting Nerf darts at each other.  So maybe they would be more careful if there was a fence or screen.

Then I remembered.  These are kids.  If there is a fence, they will go through it.  If there is a vine, they will ignore it.

And so it has stayed. No fence.

I have never grown a pumpkin before.

I love this pumpkin.  And I am pretty sure it will actually be lots of #accidentalpumpkins.  If not, I have enjoyed watching it invade.

#AccidentalPumpkin's Rules for Public Spaces:

~If there is an exclusionary rule about the public space you want to thrive in, break it.

~Hang on for dear life. 

~Don't build a fence - they would notice.

~Plant seeds even when you don't know you are planting them.

~Exist happily next to the weeds.  They will distract people from worrying about you.

~Get lots of sunshine.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Post-modernisticastic Stuffalumpousness

Image result for moonrise kingdomBoth of these photos demonstrate the heutagogical necessity of andragogy as well as a metamodernistic take on post-modern thought process.  As you can see, the layering inherent in both the bread and the puzzle pieces clearly delineates what Vermeulen and van den Akker explained in their tour de force work Notes on Metamodernism, which is that all of the thingamajigs that people once thought of as Extremely Important are no longer so.They note that the post-ideological brainset has replaced the Alanis Morrisette-type of Jerry Seinfeldness.  This new balance of ironic detachment and sincere engagment, as seen in Moonrise Kingdom, can be seen in the angle of the paper bag in the first photo, and in the eyes of the sincerely ironic person on the puzzle piece in the second photo.

Clearly, these two photos make one long for the days of altermodernism, remodernism, performatism, and rheumatism.

For a more clear analysis of these issues, please see where Monica Multer posted the perfect antidote to such overly-wordy post-modernisticastic stuffalumpousness here in How to Talk to Babies About Post-Modernism.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sarcastic Teacher Invites You to Time Travel With CCSS

Welcome to the new world of education, with Time Travel included at no extra charge.
Below you will find the Suggested Unit Map for week one of 7th Grade English.  This plan was created by our district as a way to implement the Common Core State Standards.​
Please note that day 1 = first day of school for students.  Yes, in fact, I do mean the first day they come back from summer vacation.
Each class is 45 minutes long. You might be thinking, "But we never actually have 45 minutes to teach in a period."  Please refer to the notes from your PD sessions in order to work this out.
On the left of this chart is the Suggested Unit Map.
On the right and highlighted are some comments added by your tour guide.

You are reading it correctly.  The first day of school, we should be able to organize a gallery walk in each class based on homework completed over the summer and brought to school, post pictures for it, have the gallery walk, create a group definition of truth, discuss and define perception and reality, do a close-read of a short story, complete a plot diagram, clean up the room so that the next class can have their fresh new gallery walk, and maybe even teach phrases/clauses and Greek/Latin affixes and roots.

Image result for pen with school name on itPerhaps you are thinking, "But what about classroom procedures and getting to know my students?" And that is an "ok" and "normal" thought.  But just put those thoughts away. Eventually you will find that those types of ideas get repressed almost automatically.  This usually takes 2-3 years. Hang in there. We appreciate all you do.

Image result for wormholeYour Professional Development this August will consist of Time Compression and Time Travel strategies.  Scaffolding will include small leaps of faith, suspension of disbelief, earwigs and wormholes, as well as watching Back to the Future in reverse.

In our day 2 lesson, we have an objective that is not included in the lesson.  One positive is that we are given time to revisit yesterday's close read. Except that we probably never got to it because we ran out of time. In day 2 it is also assumed that students can jump right in and craft a brief objective summary and generate a theme statement.  

You might be thinking, "But on day 2, I will probably be doing most of what I was supposed to do on Day 1."

You might be thinking, "But they are 12 years old."

Please refer to the notes from your PD sessions in order to work this out.

Day 3.  We have a new reading assignment. The theme statements and summaries we did on day 2 (but probably didn't get to) are not discussed. [Maybe that is for the best.] The poem is said to be in Subtext, but sadly, the link says that the account expired. The subtext video does still work, for what it's worth. Next, our curriculum asks us to analyze word choice, but this lesson simply has us identifying imagery. Not the same skill.  

To summarize, on day 3 we have read a poem and answered Close Reading questions, collaborated to complete a Venn diagram, and worked on phrases/clauses and Greek/Latin affixes and roots. It is possible that at this point, you might also be finishing what was planned for Day 1.

It is possible that at this point, you might also be finishing what was planned for Day 1.

I don't think additional commentary is needed.

You may be thinking, "Wait! I am going to start out the year already days behind schedule, and that will be compounded all year and I will never catch up." Just put those thoughts out of your head.

If you do have continuing concerns, please watch Looper, Interstellar and/or Source Code prior to your August inservices. You could also read this article which will help you to understand why most teachers necessarily and pragmatically develop anxiety disorders.

If you are confused or worried, please refer to the instructional model below:
You might be thinking, "I am not sure that I can fit all of this in, even with Time Compression technology." 

It is possible that at this point, you might also be finishing what was planned for Day 1.

Together Everyone Achieves More. TEAM.

**Note: These are district-level concerns and do not reflect at all on the school where I work.  Fortunately, we have an awesome administration. Unfortunately not everyone is so lucky.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Where was your shoe? Low Tech Game-ishness In Middle School

We have had an amazing week with our game design and reflection unit!

Kevin Hodgson has asked us to reflect on implications for our classrooms.

I have a few simple offerings that we have used with some success in our alternative middle school.  In our setting, we often have to go to great lengths to "engage"! And none of these ideas uses much technology.

1.  I highly recommend the book to the left.  It was suggested to us by a professional storyteller, Geraldine Buckley, who came to our school a couple of years ago to teach storytelling.  [She is amazing, by the way.  You should have her come to your school!]

This book gives a wide variety of interactive storytelling games, with many different entry level skills, and has a naturally high ceiling.  One of the games we start with is, "Where was your shoe?" We sit in a Circle, and everyone sticks his or her shoe into the center. We then take turns telling a story about a place our shoe has been.  This could be true or fanciful.  The point is to build comfort levels.

2.  Standardized testing - my co-teacher and I make a game of district-based timed assessments.  Each time we finish a section, students get a raffle ticket to put in a jar.  At the end , we pick names for a small prize.  This keeps things moving, gives some incentive to get through the sections, and makes a horrible experience more fun for all! 

3.  BIE Collaboration rubric - we use this team-wide and I HIGHLY recommend it. Particularly now that CCSS includes standards such as, "Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions," this rubric has been a godsend in terms of breaking down the skills of collaboration and helping students self-reflect.  And actually it is appropriate for all ages, including adults with some adaptation.

4.  Gamifiying for staff planning days - When my entire middle school staff was given a planning day together, our assistant principal visited every classroom, all of whom had substitute teachers because we were planning elsewhere, and told them that the day was now a game, and the class which earned the most points that day would earn a pizza party. This simple act made the day better for all involved and gamified what could have been a very stress-filled situation. 

Preparing creative meal!
5.  When we divided the middle school up into collaborative groups to do two Chopped-style team-building days with students, planning the day as a structured game led to higher levels of student engagement.  We did this one day with cooking, and another day with constructing a bird feeder.  Staff then voted on the best meal or the most well-designed bird feeder. Having the day laid out as a game ahead of time allowed students to have background knowledge of how the day would proceed, layered on top of the advance notice we always give for schedule changes and special activities.

Presenting meal to the judges.

None of this is revolutionary, but I wanted to share a few simple game-ish things that we have found success with. While it might sound as if a lot of extrinsic reward was involved, that element actually ended up playing very little part in the successes. The game aspects simply lowered stress levels, increased fun levels, and gave an implicit structure to a set time period. All of these things typically lead to more success for our students. The game aspect also led to a natural rallying together of students who normally do not like working together and who are generally unsuccessful in teamwork. In order to "win," they put aside some of the petty differences.

Our CLMOOC unit has given me many more tools and concepts for my Game Toolbox. As I reflect more on this experience, I plan to incorporate the Makes I have seen [and done] in order to more systematically plan for and gamify my classroom. Lots more thinking to do, but thank you for all of the great ideas you have shared, including your processes and "failures" iterations!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Can't Talk Now Boss Fight or Go Rogue - My Week's Twitter Games

Inspired by experiences like this and this, I have always wanted to try to create a Twitter Choose Your Own Adventure .  This week gave  me a good chance to try it out on a small scale.  I backward mapped it and then put it out there.  It didn't work as well as I had hoped, but I am not sure how I could have made it work better. Probably used numbers: 1 of 6, or studied better.  I should have studied, actually, rather then thinking I knew how to do it!  

My second Twitter game attempt was also a bit of an experiment.  I put out tweets asking for people to join four different games (TV Photo Search, Truth or Dare, Tag, and Marco Polo):

The one that got picked up was Marco Polo, and it turned out to be quite fun!

It was interesting as folks tried to figure out the rules (there weren't any). 

Here is the Storify version.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

When It Rained In My Living Room

One time I remodeled my entire bathroom by myself.

I had no idea what I was doing, but ignorance was bliss.  For a while.

Two days into it, the bathtub and shower were installed and ready to go.  I filled the tub.

"Mom!  Is it supposed to be raining in the living room?!" my daughter called out.

[It was a non-rhetorical rhetorical question.]

Had I checked for leaks before filling the tub?  


Had I any idea of what was getting myself into?


Enter Make Cycle 3 and our Official Game of the Museum of Obscure Joys and Sorrows (O.G.M.O.J.S.).

It started out as a curiosity - the freshly created words of John Koenig were posted on Facebook, prompting Terry Elliott and I to think "That's really cool!" and ask CLmooc-ers to create words.

The words we created are here: Spreadsheet of everyone's ideas.

Terry's Hackpad Intro

No one wanted the words to languish in a spreadsheet. So when Make Cycle 3 came out, I innocently thought, "I will use the words to make a game!"

I played around with some gamification ideas - badges, an e-portfolio. I went against the competitive spirit by making all of the badges available to everyone, even if they didn't "earn" them. It was fun, which was the most important thing to me when I started.

Like my bathroom remodel, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Also like my bathroom remodel, I learned a ton throughout the painstaking process. my bathroom remodel, it took WAY longer than I thought it would. 

  • I had to figure out a few technical things. I tend to be pretty perfectionistic in these things, and would not settle for a mediocre attempt.
  • I felt a huge responsibility to the folks who had contributed words.  I wanted to do them justice and honor them.
  • Terry gave me some great feedback along the way, leading (amongst other revisions) to the escape hatch feature.  I wanted to add his soundtrack but just ran out of steam before I could figure it out.
  • I didn't want to half-ass it.

I like the wormhole-ish nature of some of it.
I love the words people made.
I love the gifs and the badges.
I like the escape hatches.

I didn't like the tediousness of making sure all of the clicks and links do the correct things. And I am sure I missed some (let me know).
I had hoped to make it sillier and more fun, but (again) I am just too tuckered out to work on it any more.
I had hoped to use feedback from more game testers. And maybe I will get that chance.

The bottom line is that I really wanted to see what potential was there for my classroom, and in that regard I am really excited to try the template out next fall. The possibilities are tremendous.

In terms of strict game design, it wouldn't score very well.  It's not really replayable, it's not that interactive, and you can't really control much of the outcome.

But I am happy with it and excited that we got to use the Obscure Joys & Sorrows that CLmooc-ers came up with!

A great collaborative effort.

Special thanks to: 
Christina DiMicelli
Sheri Edwards
Sarah Honeychurch
Terry Elliott
Scott Glass
Susan Watson
Stephanie West-Puckett

Amy Cody Clancy

The game is here: GAME