Sunday, January 15, 2012

Accountable Learning

This past week, I gave my students their very own accounting folder (I created the cover and folder. The ledgers I found on Now that they’ve mastered basic addition and subtraction skills, I decided it's time to begin keeping track of their classroom cash.

Before I finalized my decision to become an elementary school teacher, it was important for me to create a behavior management plan that I believed in and thus felt comfortable implementing. I have always struggled with negative models such as pulling colored cards for misbehaving because these programs only focus on what children are doing wrong rather than the things they are doing well. I also struggle with positive models that offer juvinel rewards like candy and stickers that don't provided additional learning oppertunities. It’s not that I’m against using rewards. Yeah, it would be ideal for my students to be completely intrinsically motivated to learn and behave well. But lets face it, we ALL need a little extrinstic motivation. I just don't like offering rewards that have no real world learning oppertunities. As a teacher, I believe my job to make my students both successful in and outside of the classroom.

So in the end, what extrensic reward do I feel comfortable offering, cash. Everyone is motivated by money. Without it you are unable to take care of yourself and others. We may all have different ideas about how much money is necessary to adequately care for ourselves and others but, everyone is motivated to earn money. If you do well and follow the rules you get paid. On the other hand, if you break the rules you must pay a fine or if your performance is unsatisfactory your salary is docked.

Not surprisingly, my kids are very motivated to earn as much classroom cash as they can. However, the point was not for money just to be used as extrinsic motivation in my classroom. I wanted the classroom cash to provide additional learning opportunities too. So, I created the accounting folders. In having their very own accounting folders, my students continue to develop their math skills by using subtraction and addition to calculate their total credits, debits, and then their daily total. They will also be better prepared to manage their money as an adult. In the mean time, they might be able to start teaching their parents a thing or two :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Time with Theo

This summer during our family trip to Switzerland, when our friendship was first created, I hoped Theo and I would meet again some day but never imaged that the next time I saw him would be in Kosovo. Yet, Monday there we were meeting up at the main ASK teaching campus in downtown Pristina

Theo is a retired nurse who spent his career working at by far the fanciest rehab hospital I think I’ll ever lay my eyes upon. I will always remember Theo’s enthusiasm as he played show and tell around the rehab hospital. He was a delightful guide but by lunch time I was exhausted and actually feeling rather ill. Theo sensed something was wrong and after explaining my pains he got up, left, then returned with a contraband (long story) bottle of clear liquid. Not exactly what I was expecting. Theo poured me a glass as well as one for himself promising I’d feel better soon. Well, sure enough I did. It burned so good as it ran down my throat and after Theo and I drank up a few glasses the pain was all but a memory. In our new blissful state, we began sharing our philosophies on about people and our world. By the time lunch was finished, Theo and I had become fast friends.

Upon seeing each other once again, Theo enthusiastically embraced me, kissing me on the cheek more times than I could count. When Theo finally released me from his friendly grip, I introduced him to some of my colleagues in Pristina who had rallied to come meet him for lunch so that Theo would be able to meet the rest of my family, my Kosovo family.
As we ate lunch, Theo explained further about the 16 year boy he came to see here in Kosovo, who has an incomplete spinal cord injury, and the wonderful plan he is devising to help the boy move forward with his life. We then moved on to Theo’s recent trip to Miami and all the adaptive challenges they faced and successfully overcome. I was nearly rolling on the ground as he told me about how they had to call the fire department to help some of the paras out of a van due to a broken lift that was trapping them all inside. Well that wasn’t funny. The tears of laughter began rollings when he described how excited the women were when these hunky firemen came to rescue them and the photo shoots that ensued. From there the laughs continued until Theo and I had to say our good byes. Although neither of us were done sharing stories , the time had come for Theo to return. We said our goodbyes. I received a lot more kisses and then he was off.

As I walked back to my apartment, I thought about how dear of a friend Theo has become and how thankful I am to have met him. I look forward to when we will meet again where ever that may be. Until then, I’ll be thinking of him each time I eat one of the “medicinal” liquor filled chocolates he brought. Actually, I think I’m feeling a little under the weather right now :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Creating a Rockin Body!

For my Christmas break I traveled around Italy this year. It was truly an amazing trip as I tour through Christmas in Verona, learned the art of Italian cooking in Bologna, and skied in the Dolomites. Yet eating rich Italian food all day, while truly delectable, wasn't so friendly to my waste line. So, its now time to exercise it all off!
Exercising every day also enables me to battle this depressing time of year when the days are short and cold, keeping me energized and positive (most of the time anyway :-).
The first step I’ve realized over the years is to create a plan. Without a plan, I’m doomed to choose the couch after a tiring day of teaching. Step two, develop a plan that is fun as well as possible.
Many of you have probably heard about the Beachbody program P90x. While I have yet to give P90x a try, I have enjoyed Chalene Johnson’s Turbo Jam workouts and now I’ve become a Shaun T groupie. For me, Shaun T.’s Rockin Body Workouts are perfect! I love, love, love to dance anytime, anywhere. Thus, dancing for exercise provides the ideal fun motivator I need to stick to my workout plan. Don't let the dancing fool ya, in these workouts I'll be doing a lot more than just brushing my shoulder off. These workouts will make me swore in places I didn't even know I had muscles.
I can also easily pop in the videos and complete the workouts in the comfort of my own apartment. I don’t have to venture into the cold dark night to go to the gym. Fun and possible, check!

At the end of the month, I'll hopefully be in great shape when I begin Shaun T’s Insanity workout videos. These workouts have no dancing but, will bring me back to my soccer days as I push myself through HIIT circuit exercises. No pain, no gain!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"When I'm 100 I think I'll Eat Soup."

Last year on the 100th day of school, I had my students do a number of fun little activities in celebration of the monumental day. For one of them, I asked my kidos to compare and contrast how things are now with what they might be like when they are 100 years old. Surprisingly my students took this task quite seriously which led to some very comical responses. One response I will never forget came from my student Efe. When asked what he might eat when he was 100 years old, Efe sat quietly pondering for about 5 minutes before responding, "I think I'll like eating soup. Yeah, soup."

Well, Efe may like soup when he is 100 but I like soup now. I think I will always LOVE soup during winter. As it starts to get cold outside, soup is just what I need to warm up. It is also quick and easy to microwave during the day when, I only have 5 minutes to throw food down before I'm needed in the classroom again.

In a lot of places around the world, you can buy canned soup. I'm currently not in one of those places. So, I made my soup from scratch. While it did take a bit of time to chop and stir, I enjoyed the process and busted out some dance moves along the way. I'm not sure how much I would like cooking without music playing in the background. It is definitely a must have combo.

Anyway, it turned out pretty darn good. I think I might just keep making soup from scratch from now on, even if I live in a place where cans abound.

Krista's Lentil Soup for All Ages

1Tbsp. olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
2 cups uncooked lentils
2 cups uncooked chickpeas
7 cups water
3 Cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp. dried rosemary
Pepper (to taste)
Garlic salt (to taste)

To begin, heat oil in a large, heavy soup pot. Add onions, garlic, and carrots and cook over moderate heat until onions are limp. Add lentils, chickpeas and water, bring to a boil. Lower heat, add herbs and spices, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils and cheakpeas are soft. Stir in more warm water if soup becomes too thick. * I added a little Parmigian-Reggiano (I just pick up during my travels in Italy) for one more punch of flavor. Makes 18 servings.

I finally became a blogger!

Nearly a year ago, I happend upon blogs for the first time, when I was searching for teaching ideas. I know, I know, crazy! I'm not sure how long people have been blogging but for whatever reason I was in the dark. Now I have seen the light! I am so thankful to all the people who I've been following the past year. Whether they are blogging about teaching, health, crafts, or food, I enjoyed hearing about their successes, challenges, and using the tools they created to better my own life. Insead of just taking, I would now like to start giving too! Through developing my own blog, I hope to share the events and tools I create in my daily life as I try to figure out how to do it all: teach, exercise, cook, love and travel.