Monthly Archives: February 2013

Feelin’ a little discouraged

As I have written in the past, I am involved teaching a fifth-grade religion class at our church. We are Catholic, so this class is for the kids who do not attend the parish’s parochial school. Most Protestant churches would call it “Sunday School.” In the Catholic Church, it’s called CCD.

This is my eighth year teaching 5th grade, and I have noticed that nearly every year, we hit a low point around February. I don’t know whether it is the spot in the curriculum, the attitude of the kids or the way I teach. However, it seems that nearly every year around this time I wonder, “Why am I doing this?”

Classroom management is an issue for me. Part of the problem is I wear hearing aids, so keeping track of multiple voices is very difficult. I have a co-teacher who is essentially my “enforcer.” She was not able to attend this week, so Mrs. Poolman came along to help. At one point she asked me, “You don’t get paid for this, right?” When I pointed out that she knew this was a volunteer job, she replied, “I knew you were a little crazy, but not this much.” Thanks for the support, Mrs. P!

I think there are several issues involved. The biggest is the class meets for an hour on Wednesday evenings. The students have already been in school all day, and this is “overtime.” We are seriously infringing upon their leisure-fun time.

While I try hard to make the class as interesting as I can, sometimes the activities I design to break up the routine are counter-productive. This week I planned a small-group poster activity. But once the groups got together, they decayed quickly into chaos. They were much too distracted by cutting up with each other and arguing over what color markers to use, to actually complete the assignment.

The class is not homogenous. There are typically 20 students on any given night. I have a small group of very quiet kids who I have to work on to draw out of their shells. And I have a few who are not naturally quiet, but are usually engaged and well behaved. And then we have:

–One little girl who is desperately needy for attention. Her way of getting it is to stir up trouble with anyone who is around her and then blame them for the disturbance.

–A few loud, high-energy (ADHD?) boys who have a compelling drive to be the center of all attention. They just roll over the quiet kids.

–A group of socially active “tween girls.” They are not intentionally disruptive, but they are constantly “a-twitter.” They just love to chat with their friends.

Next week, we’ll try it again. Since our last lesson was a total bomb, I’ll need to recover the same material, but in a more traditional style.

I hope I’m getting gold stars on my record somewhere for all this. Sigh.

In love with “Sammie” (and I’m not talking about my dog)

I think I’m in love, but it’s nothing that should worry Mrs. Poolman. A few weeks ago, after resisting all the hype and advertising for years, I broke down and purchased a Smart Phone, specifically a Samsung Galaxy 3 “Sammie” supported by T-Mobile.

Isn't she pretty?

Isn’t she pretty?

Since then I’ve had a number of epiphany moments where I asked my phone, “Where have you been all my life, and how did I ever live without you?”

Seriously though, I don’t play games and I hardly ever text, but I live on e-mail. Being able to have both my personal and work email accounts synced on my phone is great. I’ve also loaded a number of free apps, mostly news and sports sites like ESPN, CNN, CBS News and such. I haven’t even tried out the built-in camera.

I did have a problem today. Earlier this week, I changed the password on my work-laptop and email program. I didn’t know you had to turn off all the syncing functions on your smart phone before you do that. I didn’t realize there was a problem until my phone started “talking” to me in a series of rings every five minutes or so. It was making me crazy. I couldn’t figure out what was going on until I realized it was the email function trying to sync up my work email and failing. The problem ended up spreading to my work laptop and by this morning was locked up and locked out. Fortunately our IT guy was able to get me back in business. Lessons learned. Ugh.

Now comes the hard part, avoiding addiction. You know the addicts I’m talking about — the people who can’t sit still and have a conversation for more than a minute or two without whipping out their phone to check a sports score, the latest Facebook update, or whatever. We’ll see.

“American Nations” — A very interesting book, but a bit snarky

American nations 1 I read an interesting book a few weeks ago, “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America” by Colin Woodard.

Woodard takes a very interesting, historical look at North America, mostly the USA, and the various cultures that comprise us. It goes a long way to explaining the cultural and political differences among our national regions, such as the significant differences between the Deep South and New England.

Woodard’s approach is historical and not overly technical. It’s a fascinating story.

My only issue with Woodard is towards the end of the book, as his narrative starts to approach the present. A New Englander himself, he makes no secret of his contempt for the South, where I spent most of my adult life. He allows himself the satisfaction of making some snarky comments that undercut his credibility. For example, he suggests the South needs research universities that don’t look to the King James Bible as a primary science text. I trust he meant that comment a little tongue-in-cheek and not literally. However, it does make you wonder how much his personal prejudice influenced other descriptions in the book. That having been said, I still found the book very interesting.

In case you are curious, here is a map of Woodard’s, 11 nations of North America.

American Nations 2

‘Flight”, a very good movie!

Mrs. Poolman and I finished off our weekend by watching (Blu-Ray) “Flight” with Denzel Washington, John Goodman and Bruce Greenwood. It was a very good movie. (Has Denzel made any bad ones? Not that I recall.)

FlightWashington plays an airline pilot, Whip Whitaker. When his airliner experiences a catastrophic equipment failure, he saves it from crashing by rolling it upside-down, and then crash lands it in a farm field with only a few fatalities. This would make him a major hero, except for one thing. As is established in the first scene of the movie, Whip is an alcoholic and cocaine abuser. He was drunk and high when he was at the controls. The irony is his impairment didn’t contribute to the emergency. As depicted in the film, his piloting was phenomenal, but he was impaired all the same.

The depiction of the airborne emergency is intense and riveting. It will put you on the edge of your seat. To some extent, the rest of the film is an adrenaline let-down. However, Washington does a great job portraying a self-destructive man who is struggling with is addictions, but also living a lie. As a viewer, I found myself torn between wanting him to escape his just due and hoping he will get off. I won’t spoil the end for you.

This is not a movie for kids. The flight scene is extremely intense. Also, the first half of the film has plenty of nudity and vulgar sexual dialogue.

If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s one you should rent and watch it soon. You won’t regret it.

A plate of spaghetti on a winter day

Our Sunday was all about running some errands, doing stuff around the house, a movie and making a big pot of spaghetti.

spaghetti 1

I make a decent spaghetti sauce, at least Mrs. P thinks so. When we were growing up in Wheeling, West Virginia, there was a neighborhood Italian restaurant, Figarettis. It was a classic Italian family restaurant. (I believe they are still in business but in a new location.) The family’s children went to school with us. Their sauce was so good, my mother was always trying to duplicate it. Her recipe is the basis for mine. The one unusual ingredient in the Figaretti sauce was anise. That’s the spice with a little liquorice taste you usually encounter in Italian sausage. I’m not a big liquorice fan, but just a hint of underlying flavor in the sauce makes a tremendous difference.

I start with Ragu, Prego or whatever other pre-made sauce is on sale and then go from there. I add a ton of garlic, and additional spices. The “secret ingredient” is sugar. It takes a little of the bite from the tomato sauce. Here is the basic recipe for a beginner.

BASIC SPAGHETTI

Brown a pound of ground beef and a pound of some Italian sausage together.  (Slice open the sausages and brown it along with the ground beef.)

Drain the fat

Add one jar of Ragu or Prego meatless spaghetti sauce, and a good handful of chopped onions and sliced mushrooms, as you will.

The key is in the spices.  Add…

  • At least two garlic cloves, either sliced thin or minced. Feel free to add more.
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Crushed hot pepper, as you wish.
  • A small amount of Anise, if you have it.
  • Salt to taste.

Simmer for about an hour (Or longer. The longer the better.).  When it is almost done, taste. If it is bitter, add a little sugar.  It will take the tang off the tomatoes and bring out the other flavors.

Enjoy!

Chasing Ice to Jekyll Island

I took a little “blog-cation”: for a while. I was feeling down with a cold-turned-bronchitis for most of January, and didn’t really feel like doing too much.

Mrs. Poolman and I had a nice weekend. On Saturday evening, we drove down to Jekyll Island (about an hour and a half from our home) to attend the screening of an environmental film “Chasing Ice.”  It was very impressive! Several folks from work were involved in the program. Also we are considering sponsoring a screening here in Savannah later in the spring. I thought it would be a good idea to see it first. The organizers from the University of Georgia did a great job. They estimate more than 700 people showed up for the reception, film and panel discussion. I guess there isn’t much else going on in the “Golden Isles” on a Saturday night in February. The film itself was also very good. Here is a trailer.