Downsizing My Bookcase

There I can cross off one of my Summer ToDo list items – cleaning my bedroom book case. Over the past year we have been going to local book sales, book stores (new and used) and I have been accumulating books, but while school was in session I didn’t get a chance to read many of them and they just stayed there collecting dust.

When I started bringing home my books from school, I had books piles on the floor, my dresser, by my desk, on the table and you know who was starting to get concerned about the mess that this accumulation of was starting to look like around the house. We are both sort of neat freaks – her more than me though.

Those are all of the books that were in the bookcase, this is a queen-sized water bed frame and it is almost filled with books.

 

Which books I want to keep:

1. Books I haven’t read
2. Books I have read and will read again
3. Books that are part of a series
4. Books by an author that I really like
5. One of a kinds that I liked
6. Resource books

What was I going to get rid of:

1. Books that I have read and wouldn’t read again
2. Books that I bought because they sounded interesting, but when I started them they weren’t very good.
3. Books that are no longer current or applicable.

There were about 50 books in this pile on the floor that went to the local Humane Society book sale last weekend.

I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of all the books that I didn’t want in the bookcase, so I boxed up about 20 and brought them out back of the garage for storage on top of the trunk already full of books that I brought out to storage last summer.

There are several bags of books in this full sized chest. Now I have to think about going through this trunk and those in box on top of it again, some rainy day to see what else I can get rid of.

Who knows maybe I can go through my bedroom bookcase one more time and weed out a another 20-30 books, but if you look closely to the right hand side of the bookcase you will see about 60 books that I haven’t read yet, sitting on the floor.

 

One thing is for sure I will always have something to read. The bookcase and the rest of the house looks a lot neater now and you know who is not giving me the “when are you going to pick up your mess” look. 🙂

This is just the start of my downsizing efforts. I have a feeling that there will be rounds 2 and 3 over the course of the summer, where I take an even closer look at what I want to keep and what to get rid of.

Books have a special place in my heart, they take me places that I will never go or have taught me something that I will never forget and it is hard to get rid of any of them. As I try to simplify and downsize, this is one of those things that I have to get better at – letting go of what I no longer need.

However, I am going to do this downsizing and moving to a more minimalist life style, in stages, not all at once and then regret getting rid of something that I should have kept.

I know that I own the books that I kept, where I am not really as sure about the eBooks that I have bought, there are still some questions about that issue, that have to be answered before I change more of my purchases to eBooks. But that is a different post.

Why Do I Want to Run Again? June 2011

One thing that will make this return easier is that I have gone into semi-retirement and have taken the summer off to do a lot of things, but one of the main things I will be doing is running.  Hopefully, the knee holds up and that I don’t get impatient by do some stupid training routines.  I am not known for my patience and am a bit bull-headed (stoopid) at times by trying to do too much too soon. Hopefully, I have learned some patience as I have matured. We will see on this one.
I have decided to do my daily running log and most of my posts related to running at my new blog “Time to Run Again” (update – which I discontinued and now use A Veteran Runnah).  So if you are interested in my daily battle to get back in shape and the story of my return to running after a sixteen month layoff due to injury, please follow me there.

So why do I want to run again?

The answer is that I am a runner and have been one for a long time.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Now to do the work, get out there and put one foot in front of the other and run.  It feels good to be back to being a runner – it is a part of who I am, that was missing for far too long.

I Wish School Was This Way

I am a big Chris Lehman fan for a while and finally got around to watching his Tedx Philly talk (I now have the time).  In the video he describes what schools could be.

I just happen to agree with his vision.  If you have 15 minutes it is well worth watching.

I wish this was future of school for more of our students.

 

School in my opinion is not to teach students how to work, but teach them how to think and do for themselves and others. How to ask questions, how to find answers and then tell others what they found. School should be about opportunities, not drudgery.  Students still need to know how to read, write and do math well, but there is so much more to life than those three subjects. Don’t students have to be good at those as well.

If we continually to punish them by forcing them to do what they suck at, by giving them more and more of what they suck at. Haven’t we been reaping what we sow – bored or angry students who are tired of being told they suck at (you fill in the blank), but are required to do it anyway. Then we wonder why so many of them leave school as soon as they can.  School has no meaning to this population of students, except that it is a punishment for them to attend school everyday.

Saying that just because we have done it this way in the past is not good enough anymore. Instead of punishing students for being bored and acting like twits, because they are bored with lesson plans that were appropriate for a previous generation of students, even if they align with the most recent set of academic standards.  We need to start looking at what are the student’s strengths we have today, not 5, 10, 20, 50 years ago and teach to those strengths. Yes this is more work for teachers, but it isn’t any more work than teaching to the test and dealing with the negative behaviors of students who don’t want to be there because they are bored.

Am I dreaming of something that can’t occur?  With the present mindset of test, test, test, more data, accountability and that kids need more and more structure it won’t occur, it can’t.

These are some of the reasons why so many of us have left education recently.  We only see more of the same or worse coming to education and our public schools for the foreseeable future and personally I don’t want to be a part of that future.

I think that the term “Do no harm” needs to be used more often when discussing education.

It is going to take a paradigm shift about what is the future of education in the United State.  For this shift to happen it will require teachers, administrators, school boards, politicians to look outside the box that we are stuck in now and show real guts and leadership to change the future of education, because I agree with Mr. Lehman (most of) our public schools are broken.

Mr. Lehman, I think that I would have liked to have been a teacher in your school. You show leadership and an understanding of what school could or should be. Thank you for sharing this vision with the rest of us.

Week in Review – June 19, 2011

U.S. Coast Guard Official Seal
Image via Wikipedia

The week that was.

On Friday, I turned another chapter in my life where I decided to leave teaching as a full-time profession and finally take advantage of retiring from the Coast Guard over 15 years ago.  I am entering the semi-retired stage of my life where I am going to try it out and see how it fits my life style.

During the next six months I plan to focus on things that I have neglected around the house, getting my body back in shape and getting over the mentally drained feeling that I now have, that has left me completely exhausted this year (what I call the fog affect). No energy for much of anything right now.

No I won’t stop following education and being an advocate when I can for education reforms that I believe should be made, not the ones currently making the rounds that focus on the stick approach to management, in the guise of accountability, based upon less than reliable standardized testing. But that is a rant for a different post.

As I enter this new chapter of my life, it does means that we will be downsizing and simplifying a lot of what we do and how we live. Strangely enough, I am looking forward to this part, because I think that this is something that is the right thing to do and have been looking at doing more and more anyway.

I also plan to figure out what I really want from blogging. Do I want to try to make some money blogging or do I want to just keep it low-key personal and any money generated would be incidental to the writing. I know which way I am leaning, but I want to look at it more closely before I decide.

As I enter into what I call semi-retirement I do not see myself having a classroom again. I might come back as a sub or tutor or if money becomes tight maybe even an EdTech or teaching assistant in a school setting – I have had some offers already.  Maybe I will look for a part-time job outside of education completely or that I will just sit down and write that book I keep threatening to write. The future is wide-open to possibilities and I am not all that worried about the money end, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this.  We have enough, just not much extra.

What I do have now is time and freedom to try or do things that I want to do, not what my boss expects me to do.  I really want to fully experience this freedom.

In reality what I would like to do is win the lottery and not have to worry about the money end at all.  Wishful thinking hmmmm. 🙂

I do know that I am looking forward to this thing called semi-retirement, who knows it might even turn into a real retirement.

I guess I have to include my top 5 posts for the week based on pageviews instead of continuing to talk all about me and my future:
  1. Evernote Review
  2. NOOK COLOR – REVIEW JANUARY 2011
  3. CLASSROOM FIEFDOMS
  4. Mobile Me Review
  5. Evernote as a Task Manager

This was a bit of a tangent for a weekly review, but it is what is on my mind right now.

RunLog 6/17/11 – My 1st Mile

On May 17th I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee.

Today is June 17th and I almost ran a mile (only walked for about 50 yards). I am really happy with my progress so far and hopefully it continues as rapidly as it has.

Yes I know that I have to be careful to not overdue it and try to go too far to quickly. I have to curb my impatience and be smart about my training regimen. I don’t have to worry about going too fast, right now I am too fat to worry about anything but getting a base built up.

After I left school this afternoon, I went to Augusta and shopped for new running shoes. I have been very intrigued with the minimalist running shoe movement and wanted to look at a couple to see if they were what I was looking for.

 

Unfortunately, we do not have a dedicated running shoe store in the local area (I wish we did). So I went to three different chain stores and tried on about 15 pair of running shoes.

When I tried on some of the minimalist shoes, to be honest I was disappointed with the comfort or should I say the lack of comfort in the uppers on those shoes. For shoes with less features, less material, they sure do cost as much or more than many “regular” shoes.

While I was looking at which pair of running shoes that I would buy, I got to thinking about how many miles I would actually put on them over the next few months. I have a feeling it will be less than I want or expect, because I have a feeling that I will have to rest the knee more often than I want too, which means that I really don’t need a high end shoe this time..

After all the trying on of shoes and thinking about what I actually need for my current level of fitness (fatness), I finally chose the Nike Dual Fusion St.

While they are not a minimalist shoe, they fit me better than several of the minimalist shoes (more comfortable) and were about $30 cheaper than the other shoes I was looking at. The Dual Fusion doesn’t have heavy duty stability features, which I wanted to avoid. It is a relatively light shoe (around 10 oz), and felt like they had a very cushioned ride, which I was looking for. Also the waffle tread will work for light trail running, when I am ready, which some of the other minimalist shoes would not have been appropriate.

My first run in them tonight was awkward at first, they have a different feel than my Saucony’s that I have been wearing as walking shoes and ran in the past two nights. After about 100 yards I stopped thinking about how I was running and just ran (slowly). When I finally settled into a good gait, the I found them to be really comfortable and I ran twice as far as I have so far. So far so good.

Course: Howard Circle Loop (0.5) 2 laps
Distance: 1.0 miles
Time: No Time
Week’s Total: 2.0 miles
Month To Date: 2.0 miles
Year To Date: 2.0
Days Run: 3
Current Streak: 3
Weight: Not Yet

 

Fare Thee Well – LJHS

Today was my last day at Lawrence Junior High School.I finished up the filing that I had left to do, put the pile of papers that needed to be shredded in the bin, attended my last staff meeting and said my goodbyes/see you laters. I was going to write this post as my last action at LJHS, but when I came back to my room, I was too emotionally drained to do it then.

I just needed to leave the building and move on to the next chapter in my life. Instead of boring you to tears with my thoughts about today,

The infamous one-button bandit. I think that I gambled more money away in that machine without getting my coffee, then I have on lottery tickets. Once in a while though it would actually work and then I had to drink the stuff. Not the best coffee in the world, but it did give me an excuse to get out of the room, check my school mail box and get back a little bit of sanity on some really tough days. So in the end it was worth all the money gambled away on the coffee machine.

My last view of Lawrence Junior High School before I got in my Subaru and drove away.

I looked back at the window that I looked out of so many days over the past couple of years. The one right at the end of the white awning, second floor.As I turned and walked towards my car, there were some conflicting emotions, about the people that I would miss, the great relationships that we had created and the people/students that I would probably never see again.

However, throughout this whole day, I never once questioned whether I was doing the right thing or not. I knew deep inside me that I was doing the right thing.So goodbye Lawrence Junior High School. I wish the staff and students there nothing but the best and hope that the efforts that you discussed this morning have a positive affect on the school next year and the years after that.

This is the welcome sign Mrs. Brawn made at the start of the year for us to put on our door.  She also  made one for each student in our homeroom (I noticed more than a couple of the 8th graders taking theirs with them when they left). One of my students dared me to put it on my face and let him take a picture of me acting silly one last time.

Thank you Mrs. Brawn – you have, are and will continue to make a positive difference in your (our) student’s lives. I will miss your smile, our talks and your enthusiasm. I wish you well. Just don’t climb on top of the bookcases anymore – okay 😉

Fare Thee Well – LJHS

“Are you doing the right thing for the right reason.”

RunLog 6/16/11

Today was a physical therapy day.  She kicked my butt – which was a great thing.  My knee is feeling a lot stronger every week, but today, when she had me do a side step-up, nothing happened and my leg crumpled.  It just didn’t know what it was supposed to do. So we worked on that for a while and at the end of the session, I was able to do the side step-up – slowly and as long as I was thinking about it.

Then I went for my 0.5 run and almost made it all the way around the loop before walking.  My knee felt  more comfortable than last night and this was after a pretty tough physical therapy session.

So far I have run a total of 1.0 mile this year and I am extremely happy with it.

“Are you doing the right thing for the right reason.”

School Year Reflection 2010-2011

Each school year starts out with fresh eyes and high hopes of all the great things you are going to do over the course of the year. Then it ends with you being tired, beat, burnt out and just wanting it to be over.

As I watched the excitement that the students had while they were piling out of the room to begin their summer vacation this morning.  I smiled, laughed a little and thought back to the first day of the year.
How nervous they all were, especially my new 7th graders.
Although the changes were not as dramatic as the movie “To Sir With Love” there were dramatic changes in all of my students over the course of this past year.  It wasn’t that many are now taller than I am, that they had become young men and women, that they had had great grades on their final report card or improved their standardized test scores.
The biggest thing that I noticed about the students in my homeroom this year was how much most of them had matured and gained more self-confidence in themselves. Many of them are much different today than they were when we started school in the fall. Some of the students that I have had in homeroom for both 7th and 8th grade, the changes were even more remarkable and dramatic.
These are the changes that are not measured by standardized tests, but they are the changes that determine if many of those students will be successful in life or not.  I am extremely proud of the small part that I may have played in some of those changes.
School is almost over for me.
It is now over for the students and tomorrow school will be over for me.
I know it is over because I played my end of year traditional song – “To Sir With Love” by Lulu and shared it with Wayne, another teacher who is retiring after 41 years in public education and 19 at our school.
He smiled and seemed to have that faraway look in his eyes while he was listening to it, as if he was remembering different things. He said thank you and quietly walked away. I believe that it was the right thing to share.

I have a feeling that this will be the last time that I play this song for this reason – the end of another school year for me. It was a bit sad and I did tear up a little bit (but no one else saw them).

I guess I am just an old softie – just don’t tell anyone. 🙂

Toughest Year

As a teacher this was probably my toughest year. No the students were not the roughest or hardest group of students that I have had to teach, actually they were one of the easiest (with a couple of exceptions, who were rather challenging). No after my wife’s health issues, I had begun to look at what was actually important in my life and teaching began to more and more take second or third fiddle, instead of its customary first fiddle position during the school year. Teaching and the mountains of paperwork associated with Special Education did not have the same priority as it had in the past.

Did I teach well?

I believe that I did. I attempted to integrate technology into my English classroom and believe that I was successful. We did a lot of reading and some writing. I wish that I could have done better with the writing part, but this year’s classes needed to focus more on their reading skills, so that is what we did. There were several students who I fought tooth and nail with at the start of the year to read, who at the end of the year were asking to read more or where the next book in the series was. I feel comfortable with the progress my class made academically.

Professional Development

The highlight of my year regarding professional development was attending EdCamp Boston. I had a lot fun and met several people who are part of my PLN. I got to ride to Boston with my friend Richard and talk about lots of “stuff” while in his truck. I did attend several training that were put on by Central Maine Inclusive Schools (CMIS), online webinars and participating in #edchat & #spedchats.

Announcing Resignation/Retirement

It was a difficult decision to resign and move to retirement. Leaving a job that I was invited to come back to (and know what is expected of me) for the unknown is scary.  I was supposed to work one more year in our original plan and my wife is picking on me because I didn’t.

Some days though I really thought that I was coming back to teach one more year and other days I knew exactly what I was going to do. It just depended upon the day what happened that day at school and how much work I was doing at home, when I wanted to do something else. I really didn’t make the final decision until Memorial Day weekend, but as the year went on it became more evident what direction I was probably heading in.

I didn’t tell the students until Monday the 13th and the next morning they and my teaching assistant did a surprise retirement party for me, which meant a lot to me (Thank you Donna).

That day I also got another surprise, I was included in the retirement celebration, with the other 3 people in the building, who were retiring from the school after their long service at the school. I had been there only two years and it meant a lot to me to be included in that celebration. To be recognized and have fellow staff members say some nice things about me was “way cool”.  No I didn’t let it go to my head and let my ego get the best of me, but it was nice to hear it. Especially, some of the conversation I have had since that day.

Will I miss teaching?

Probably more than I will admit. I know that I will miss the kids, their “aha” moments, the other staff members that I have gotten to know over the course of the last couple of years and the many supportive parents that I have met over the past couple of years.

What won’t I miss.

Planning lessons, doing research, correcting papers, preparing IEPs, Written Notices, at night or on the weekends instead of spending that time with family or simply doing something else during my personal time.

I will not miss forcing children to take MULTIPLE standardized tests that other required tests already tell us they will fail, it is not right. However, it is the direction that education in the U.S. has been forced by current law and will be going for the foreseeable future with our present administration.  It is so sad and I am glad that I am no longer part of that part of today’s education!

I Want to Say Thank you

  • Donna – for all of your help and support over the last couple of years – we made a great team! You complimented me perfectly, you are strong in the areas I am weak and made you made me look a lot better than I was.
  • Angie – You are da bomb – we made it through some pretty tight situations with a couple of them.
  • Gerry – My partner in crime – you helped me through with sage advice and how to navigate LJHS
  • Mike M – You listened my friend
  • Beth – Your caring when I needed it and our hallway conversations
  • Mike B – The convos on the Red Sox and other Boston teams
  • Andy – Helping me remember what I had forgotten and that I can’t save them all, but that I still have to try
  • Ginger – I will miss our great conversations, how hard you try to help with I/C and how much you care about the kids
  • Dan – I have a feeling you will do well and go far – you give a damn – don’t lose that
  • Robin – Being a friend for a loooooooong time
  • Roberta – For your support and giving me a chance to be a part of LJHS
  • Sean – You were there when I needed you several times this year
  • Jody – Your support, patience and for giving me the chance to come back to my dream job. Especially on my second day on the job – I thank you for what you did and said that day, I will never forget you for that act of kindness
  • There are several more that I could say thank you to and in the interest of space and time, I just want to say it now to the rest of you.

THANK YOU for everything you have done for and with me since October 2009.

I don’t question the choice that I have made – it was the right choice at the right time, for the right reasons.

 

I Started Running Again Today – June 2011

Tonight I started running again!!!

I haven’t run without significant right knee pain since February 2010.

It has been almost a month since I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee and I am walking really well on flats and not too steep hills – stairs are still a pain, but getting better. So I decided to try running, well actually jogging (really slowly) tonight.

My run/walk wasn’t real comfortable, but it wasn’t painful there is a difference! When I ran with a forefoot strike it was a lot less painful than running with a heel strike stride. Otherwise my knee was just sore, which is a big difference from the way it felt before.

I did a half-mile loop and I ran a lot more than I walked.

Over the past couple of weeks I have gone back and looked through my old running logs to see my injury patterns and what I was doing successfully back when I was running a lot, without being injured.

I was a forefoot striker, instead of a heel striker until just a few years ago. I believe it is more efficient and when I ran this way in the past, my training logs showed I had less injuries with this the forefoot strike style of running. I believe that I changed over to being more of a heel striker when I went to a more “supportive” shoe in late 2007 that was recommended by a specialty running store, based upon my running style and a gate analysis.

After changing to the heavy-duty motion control shoe my logs show a lot more overuse aches and pains and less time running as a result of that change.

Last night I started researching minimalist running shoes, because when I was running using that shoe style during 2006-2007 I ran injury-free. The Nike, Saucony or New Balance minimalist shoes interest me now and over the course of the next week or so, I am going to find what fits me the best and then get that shoe.

This is the perfect time to re-train my running style back to being a forefoot striker, however, it will harder to run this way while I am first getting in shape again. However, if I am persistent, I believe that I will be better off in the long run returning to be a forefoot striker.

It felt good to be running again and I know that I am woefully out of shape!!!!

Now to get in good enough shape to do some easy trail running later this summer.

“Are you doing the right thing for the right reason.”

Who are the Real Bloggers?

This icon, known as the "feed icon" ...Image via WikipediaWho are the “real” bloggers?

While reading the blogs in my RSS feed lately and my Twitter feeds I have noticed the following topics dominating what is being written about blogs and bloggers:

  • are all about making money and they are going to show you how you too can make money blogging
  • must have a focus and become an expert in your area
  • are a small business
  • give great information
  • are another marketing tool to help businesses sell their product
  • political opinions (left, right and whatever else there is)
  • provide disinformation or mislead readers
  • provide self help opportunities
  • are a great way to engage Personal Learning Networks
  • how blogs should meet “certain” standards of writing, content, images, styles, etc.
  • great blog design tips
  • religious beliefs
  • flame wars over who is right or who is not doing what
  • “I can tell you what you are doing wrong and you should listen”
  • great ideas to improve your blog
  • new technology or software that can be used
  • simplifying and minimizing your life
  • that if you don’t post regularly you are not a blogger
  • have an edge to increase your readership
  • finally, it’s all about me

Is that what blogging is all about?

Originally blogging started out as a personal web log, where the writer logged what they wanted to write about online and thought others might be interested in. Blogging has evolved far beyond the simple web log’s original premise or expectations. Many have discovered the great customer communication and marketing potential that blogging has for promoting businesses, product and personal images. It has gotten to the point where many can and are earning a living being a blogger.

Has the ability to earn money by blogging changed the definition of who are bloggers? Is there enough room in the blogosphere for multiple definitions of blogging and who are bloggers?

There seems to be a lot of conflicting information, disinformation or definitions out here about blogging and who are bloggers. It almost seems as if you don’t fit that narrow description (someone trying to make money with your blog), that you are not considered a “real” blogger anymore.

It almost seems that some of the so-called “professional bloggers” are attempting to narrow the definition of who should be considered bloggers be and the direction blogging should go by attempting to provide “rules” or “guidance” on how to blog or blogging according to their view of their new “profession” – the blogger.

Is this what others are seeing or is it just the blogs that I are in my feed right now? Or am I completely off base.

To all you “experts” who are trying to narrow who should be considered a blogger, remember that your way is not the only way to blog. If a blogger does not want to ascribe to how others or you see blogging it does not make them any less of a blogger.

Something to think about.  I have been playing basketball since 1964 and while I never became a professional basketball player, I have always enjoyed playing basketball. In fact I played again today for the first time since I was injured last year and loved doing it. Do I play basketball for the same reasons or level as LeBron James or Kobe? No I don’t, I play basketball because I love the game, the competition and how I feel after I am finished.

Will I ever be in the same league as bloggers like: Seth Godin, Danny Brown, Chris Brogan or the other “A” list bloggers probably not.  Have I made a lot of money playing basketball – no, have I made a ton of money blogging – no. Do I consider myself a basketball player and a blogger – I sure do. But I do both for different reasons than those who get paid to do them as professionals.

There are different levels of both basketball players or bloggers and there is enough room in the blogosphere for all the different levels, styles and perspectives on blogging. Don’t put down another blogger, just because they don’t happen to meet your expectations of what you believe or want a blogging to be.

I don’t have any problem with anyone making money from their blog(s), in fact, I would love to supplement my semi-retirement with income from my blog, so I don’t have to go out and find a part-time job. Will it happen at One Foot In Reality – I am not going to hold my breath too long.

Is monetization of a blog becoming the expectation and how others are going to measure the success of a blog?  I have to ask is this what blogging is all about in today’s world? Has creating content expressly so that others will read your blog, then click on ads or buy your merchandise, so that the blog owner can make money what blogging is about?

If it is then I must not be a “real” blogger according to this new definition (attitude) that seems to being floated around by some of the professional blogger crowd.

The reality is that

many of us blog, not because we think we are going to make lots of money being bloggers. We blog because we like to write and some of us like to write about a lot of different things, without having a different blog for each of the things we want to write about – in other words our blogs lack focus. The focus that is necessary to properly monetize your blog.

My blog is a good example, over the next six months, I will probably have about six different focuses: simplicity/minimalism, education and being a former teacher, simple living, getting back into shape (hiking, running, kayaking & playing basketball will be a big part of it), aging and what life is like for a semi-retired former Coastie. Not very focused is it, but these and more are what I will probably be writing about.

Finally

To many bloggers the act of writing is more important to the writer, than the number of readers, what the focus or content of the blog is about or how much money they are making with that blog.

It simply means they have different priorities and have different expectations for their blog than you or I do – that is their choice.

That choice does not make them any less of a blogger than those who are or claim to blog professionally.

If you want to promote your blog and make lots of money doing it – cool beans, go for it and have fun doing it, I am in your corner and might join you someday.

Just be careful where you tread and who you step on. Like they say “Karma is a bitch

My answer to my question

Who are the “real” bloggers?

WE ALL ARE – we just have different expectations and reasons for writing on our blogs.