Monday, March 2, 2020

Tomorrow, my state of North Carolina is part of Super Tuesday. I'm having existential angst over my vote this time that I've never felt before -- it's like I'm worried that I'll make the wrong choice. My preference is to vote for Warren just because she's the most qualified. Her tag-line of I-Have-A-Plan-For-That just reiterates that there is no plan for anything in the current administration. I'm not sure I felt scared during the 9/11 time with President Bush, even though he wasn't who I had supported in the 2000 election.

However, the angst is totally there now --and we haven't been attacked by terrorists.

On the other hand, Joe Biden is the "safe" choice --even though I'm listening to Bloomberg's deputy on the news talk about how much better he would be.Sorry, but I'm not buying that one. Dude isn't a Democrat. Biden has been a favorite of mine for many years as I've taken more interest in the political world. The problem? He's a white dude.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that (cue Jerry Seinfeld's funny line here)...but the Democrats started off with the most diverse group of politicians in history. And all that's left is white people. Isn't that wrong on some level? What do I tell my students who aren't white about how they might impact their communities?

My conundrum I choose Mom or Dad??? haha....horrible way to look at life right now, but that's how it feels.

How are others dealing with the ideas of voting or talking to your students (and family) about this major decision?

Sunday, March 1, 2020

SOLSC #1: Let's Get Started

I'm not sure why I've waited so long to get back to this community. Some Tuesdays, I have my tenth graders write a SOL, and I tell myself to update my blog with my own Slice...but then life happens.

Today's slice is about my love for The Office. I can't not watch this show when it's on...and today, the episode where Ryan comes back to introduce the employees to the new technology (Blackberry and GPS) is one of my favorites.


 Good grief...I absolutely die laughing every single time I watch this. I remember the night this actually aired. My son and I were watching - he may have been 15 at the time. But the more I thought about getting him a GPS when he got his license, the more I was convinced that he would be just like Michael and not keep his wits about him. Like, he'd let the tech take over and not pay attention to where the computer took him.

It did take him several months to figure out how to drive and pay attention to the GPS, but he finally got it. And, luckily, he's never driven into a lake!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Slice of Life: My Three Cats
Two weeks ago, I had my students begin their Writing Territories list for the spring semester. I wrote with them, and one of the topics I jotted down pertained to my three cats. This post is for them.

(Umm... you have to play the theme music as you read! haha)

Kitty one is Cleopatra Jones Bridges-McCabe. Cleo for short. At five years old, Cleo is the big sister who keeps the order but isn't afraid to put the others in their places. She's not always the first one to come eat, but she never starts eating from her plate first -- always nibbles on the others' before taking a bite from her own plate. And she KNOWS exactly what she's doing! She only lets you love on her if you are on the toilet, or if she deems you worthy of her. You have to scratch inside her ear (with your knuckle), while she pretends she's pulling away. If you stop, she's right back in your face. When she's finished with
the touchy-feely, she jumps down and licks her left paw as if to say, "You'll never tame me! I don't need your love!" As a kitten, she came running when you told her it was bedtime; this continues today. She loves to sleep at my daughter's head, top of her pillow. She's my favorite.

Kitty two is Grace Kung-Pao-Chicken Bridges-McCabe. Nicknamed "Gracie" because my husband and daughter think it's cute, she's the four-year-old middle child. To know Grace, you have to know the meaning behind her name. When my husband brought her home, the foster family called her Fanny. It was like the family hadn't even listened for the kitten to tell her name! I watched her all day as she jumped and climbed and explored. In the early afternoon of that first day as I sat in front of the TV, the kitten jumped on top of the stand where I have photos, candles, and knick-knacks. CRAAASSSHHHH! Down came most of those items! "Good grief, cat, you have no gracefulness, do you?" shot out of my mouth while I picked up the mess. Soon as I said it, the kitten came over and butted my hand. There it was -- her name! Grace, like her middle name, is both sweet and sour. When she wants you, she doesn't care if it's convenient for you. She just shoves aside your arm, or gets on top of your papers, or butts you in the face. And then the kneading starts. I can never get her to the vet quick enough to get her paws trimmed, so my arms, stomach, and thighs are riddled with scratch marks. She purrs like a rumbling train and is so soft that you just want to snuggle her. She'll let you. Until you cough, and she digs her claws into you, jumping away.

Kitty three is Jasper Nugget Bridges-McCabe. He's the baby, and man, does he act like it! He's only two but is bigger than both the girls. My daughter saved him from the pound when a co-worker said she couldn't take care of him (the prego mom had shown up on her porch, had the kittens, and then left them). I nicknamed him Mr. Fluffernutter because he's cuddly and soft and chunky. He's one of those cats you just want to carry around with you all day because they make you smile and keep you warm. He loves getting water from the toilet. Yes. Like a dog! His BFF is my dog, Bella. The girls were not nice to Jasper for the first two months he was home. And Bella doesn't know how to say no, so they played together all the time. One of my favorite stories happened about three weeks after we brought that baby home. My daughter and I came in from shopping and couldn't find Jasper anywhere. The girls sat in opposite corners of the living room looking guilty as I called his name. Bella kept beating her tail against the floor. After calling and looking for about fifteen minutes, my daughter turned to Bella and said, "Bella, where's Jasper?" Dern it if Bella didn't go straight to the couch and start sniffing around. We were baffled - how could a kitten be INSIDE a couch? We had to literally turn the couch upside down because the ding-dong had found a hole in the lining and gotten stuck inside! He now spends his time hanging with my husband in the garage all day (hubby works from home), and is the only cat to understand that the Kev-man needs a

Bella has the same face every time Jasper comes to's the face that says, "Fine. I'll be his friend!" haha...

So...this is my story of my three quirky kitties. I just sneezed and scared Grace, and now I need to go find a band-aid!

Til next week!

Friday, November 10, 2017

We Don't Need No Tech-ucation!

Yes...on a Thursday, I assigned a webquest to my sophomores. They whined. They procrastinated. They bellyached. There was grumbling and gnashing of teeth. All because I said, "Use the links I provided to answer the questions."


You'd have thought I had peeled their fingernails back and pinned them to a clothesline! Who was I do make them do the work? Why couldn't I just show a PowerPoint and let them passively write down the words so they could keep SnapChatting, texting, and taking selfies?? And we were only substituting paper for pencil - not even creating anything.

This is not the first tech assignment I have given this class, but it seemed like the kids thought it was. Or, I don't know. Maybe they were just anticipating having Friday off. But something was amiss on Thursday. I've had students say similar things to me, and I guess it bothered me for real this time.

It's just that...why?

Why does active learning burn so much? Like, maybe they felt like I was asking them to exercise or promise to give me their first born child. Walking around the room, the stress was palpable. There was an odd quietness -- not the good kind where there was work and creation, but the bad kind. A calm before the storm.

I had students literally sigh as they answered each question. It was so disheartening, I almost told them nevermind. Almost.

My 4th period came in much later, and I thought, "Yes! A new group -- THEY will love this!" Nope. They spent their time emailing me funny messages and SnapChatting with some new filters. One kid sat right beside me, whispering to her friend to tell her what number 6 was! I WAS SITTING RIGHT THERE!!!

Something isn't right with the tech use and integration at my school. I feel like I'm the only teacher asking students to create with technology, rather than take a test. How can my kids say they don't like computers? THEY ARE ON THEIR PHONES 24/7! I can't take the things out of their hands. So, I try to incorporate them, but that's too hard, too.

It has to be their brains. Nick Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Does to Our Brains, wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal about our over-reliance on cell phones. Carr (2017) described a study in which three groups had variations of cell phones during a test: group 1 had the cell phone on the table and scored the worst; group 2 had the phone with them, but in a bag, and scored in the middle; group 3 had to keep the cell phone in a locker outside the testing room and scored the best.

What does this tell me as a teacher? Well, that my students need to keep their cell phones in their lockers so they can concentrate. And to that, I say:

Why am I laughing so hard?? Because so many edu "thought" leaders have screamed that banning cell phones in the classroom is wrong. Because cell phones are basically another appendage. Because I'll have parents cussing me out if they can't text Lil' Jimmy or Julie some drama that's happening at home!

But the research, and my experiences for the last few years, is clear -- more cell phones in the classroom basically cripple students' critical thinking and ability to concentrate on anything.

They still have to do the webquest, but it will be painful.

So...anyone else have similar pains? How do you handle the I-hate-computers-cell-phone-using-students?


Carr, N. (2017, October 6). How smartphones hijack our minds. The Wall Street Journal [New York], 
     p. C 1. Retrieved from

Giphy link:

Image created in Canva

Thursday, November 2, 2017


So many parts of my life are going wrong right now, and I can't fix any of them. At the moment, I should be solidly in the middle of collecting data for my dissertation. But what am I doing instead? Worrying about how to keep my yearbook staff focused on a daily basis. Worrying that the "reflection tool" I had to use in a district PD will get me fired for what I wrote (apparently, being honest isn't a virtue in the edu world). Worrying that my son will get mugged or stolen from again since he's moved to DC with some jezabel, and they've already gotten broken into once. Worrying that my ELA students aren't really reading and aren't enjoying the weekly blog posts I ask them to write. Worrying that my daughter is so bored at school that she will turn into one of the lackadaisical high school kids I deal with daily. Worrying that I'll NEVER actually write a dissertation that, in reality, means a great deal to me.

When it's Dissertation Saturday, I try to leave my house to read and write. Then, I get bored and sad that I am alone. So I surf the web, or plan fun, creative lessons for class. Then, I get mad at myself for not writing or finishing that book that was due at the library two weeks ago. So I leave Panera or the bookstore or the library and go home to sleep. Because all this stuff just makes me tired.
Or -- and this is my FAVORITE way of working -- I stay home because Lily has gone to a friend's house, and I don't have to entertain her. So, I start with some coffee and read my Twitter timeline. That lasts for oh, an hour or so. I see the time pass by and say, "Hmm... okay, one more cup of coffee and five more Twitter minutes." When that hour passes by, I think, " it's time for breakfast." So, I eat breakfast and watch the tv because I can't eat and write at the same time. When those two hours pass by -- it was a Netflix binge -- I think, "Okay, I'm going to read this chapter and take notes, and then write ALL THE DISSERTATION!" And, after about twenty minutes, I fall asleep. When I wake up, it's probably been a couple of hours, so I stretch, fuss at myself a little, take the dog for a walk and get some fresh air, come back in and eat and while I eat, I watch the tv or read the Twitter and make a plan to stop and WRITE ALL THE DISSERTATION. But by now, my day is shot and watching Netflix or reading a fun book it much more enticing.

This is not how normal people work. Normal people do what they say they are going to do and follow through. And in my real life, I am one of those people. But as a doctoral candidate, I am the worst student/researcher. I have not found a partner with whom I can meet just to write with. I have not locked myself in a closet to sneak in writing. I do have notes and notes and notes, but no organization, so I don't even know what I have at this point.

And the worst part is, I don't know how to get back to caring whether I finish this degree or not. For vanity, I want to. But professionally? What will a doctorate do for me? Once I started really delving into the business of school and how things work, I can't unsee the policies that cripple teachers like me who know what best practices are, yet are forced to change because #TestScores. All these people in my district who are "in charge" of the educational programming have gone to graduate school. They sat in the same classes that I did where we debated and read and wrote about the #BadTeachers and the #SacrificingInstructionForTheTest and how we would #NeverBeThatLeader.

But they've all turned out that way.

I had a phone call yesterday from a woman I worked with when I taught elementary Special Ed. I trust her as a teacher and professional. She spent about thirty minutes (in the middle of my 4th period) justifying why my daughter and the rest of the middle school are taking daily computer tests and why the top students in each grade get to be "enriched" through clubs and interest groups. It all goes back to #TestScores. My kid scored grade level, but not above grade level. My kid is being punished ("She's not being punished, Stephanie. It's only twenty minutes four days a week.") because she didn't score in the brilliance range for math. My kid is being punished because they track the students in middle school -- AIG vs Everyone Else.

My friend and colleague who I trust turned out to only care about #TheTest.

So, this "unseeing" the bad seems to be weighing me down regarding finishing the doctoral program. I am in no way excusing myself or complaining. I'm simply depressed that nothing will change even if I have a doctoral degree.

Well, nothing except, it will be finished. Until then, I "Gotta Change My Way of Living"..... :-)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Let's Have Some Fuuuunnn!!

My best bud, Jana, and I embarked on a massively cool project this year. We will document our journey toward becoming the coolest STEAM teachers in town. Check back here for all our adventures, mishaps, and resources!