Friday, July 17, 2015

Green Smoothie Family

About 5 years ago, my wife and I were pretty unhappy with our weight. We're not big people, but we just didn't feel we were the healthiest. I had made a goal to never be over 200 pounds, and I was sitting at 210... OK! 215... eek!

So my wife did some research into healthy eating habits, and started reading up on green smoothies from the Simple Green Smoothies site. If you're not familiar with green smoothies, they are smoothies that are typically made with organic fruits and veggies (use what's in season). They contain no dairy, and are blended up with just ice and water (coconut water, coconut milk, or almond milk work too!). At first I have to admit that I was totally skeptical, and we didn't even have a blender! But, as the high quality husband that I am, I decided to jump aboard and give them a try.

We did our research into blenders, and decided to get a Ninja brand blender. I will admit, that we totally wanted a Vitamix, but did I mention that I'm a teacher?.. :) We were excited to get started with the blending, and the Ninja did a great job. We quickly fell in love with our smoothies, and that "we" includes our kids! 

Our kids loved having a smoothie every morning, and then with dinner too. My wife and I loved the fact that they were getting veggies multiple times a day, and were begging to have a smoothie with each meal! (I've included our favorite recipe below).

Naturally, when you are trying to lose some weight, simply doing one thing doesn't magically make the pounds slip away. We are both former athletes, and we knew that exercise was going to have to be included in our plan in combination with some calorie counting. We decided to just do a smoothie and sandwich diet. We'd have a smoothie for breakfast, and then a sandwich & smoothie for lunch and dinner. We'd throw in different breads, cheeses, meats, and other "toppings" to spice up the sandwich, as well as guacamole and chips as a side.

With exercise, we both managed to lose the weight we wanted. It was great. Of course, over time and the addition of more kiddos, we lost some of the routine, and one can only eat so many sandwiches! But the one thing that has remained and is a staple to our daily lives is our morning smoothies!

We had to replace our Ninja Blender with the Nutri-Ninja Pro when the motor died, but we're staying true to the Ninja blender family. I happen to love the Nutri-Ninja Pro because I can make individual servings in a ready to go cup. It's hard when I'm making smoothies for everyone since I can't do one big pitcher. But I love the idea of getting each of the kids their own cups, so they can make their own smoothies with the ingredients they choose.

Use the comments below to tell me your favorite smoothie recipes or to talk about your blender of choice. You can also hit me up on twitter at @Ken_teacherdad.

The Teacher Dad Recipe!
(use with the Ninja Pro large cup)
Half an avocado
1 Banana
Large handful of spinach
1 pear
small handful of frozen mixed fruit (peaches, strawberries, grapes, pineapple)
Top off with as many frozen blueberries as you can
add between 1/2 to 1 cup of water for blending.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Project Semicolon #semicolonEDU

Over the last week, I've seen several posts on twitter with the hashtag semicolonEDU. At first, I'll admit, I glossed over the posts having had no prior knowledge of what #semicolonEDU was about. But then I noticed more posts, and these included tattoos of semicolons, and strong messages of support and love for my friends in the twitterverse that were participating. My interest was snatached, and I started clicking the links (Project Semicolon Site and The Nerdy Teacher's site) to learn more.

Through my link clicking, I learned that Project Semicolon is a movement to show love, hope, and support to those that suffer from depression, thoughts of suicide, addiction, and self-harm. As the official website puts it:

A semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life. 

Not a Tattoo, but sharpy works!
I love this. The idea of using the semicolon as a sign of hope. A semicolon is a writing tool. A symbol that most connect with English class and school.
School, a place where the teachers are on the front lines of working and connecting with kids of all types.

For me, this project means so much, because I take my role as a teacher seriously. My place in these kids' lives is not solely for teaching math, but to act as a role model, and for some a life coach. My goal each year is to have a positive overall impact on these kids' lives, so that they know in me, they have someone who believes in them.

I know that my time on earth hasn't always been the easiest. My junior high experience was the worst. My self-value was in constant question, because I couldn't handle the verbal bullying, and at times physical bullying I went through. I was made to feel that I was never good enough, and I quickly believed it.

My schooling was negatively impacted. I never felt like I had an ally at school. The teachers never seemed to care, and the kids were mostly just left to fend for themselves. I became an easy target because I was the kid that would easily cry. I never fought; it's not in my nature.

So, to be heard, at home I would say that I would kill myself, or hurt myself. I guess in some ways I actually was considering it, since I remember spending a lot of time thinking about it. I would think about how scary it would be to die. I would wonder if anyone outside of my family would care. And in the end, I never truly attempted anything because I was scared. I was scared to hurting my family, because I knew how much they loved me. It was never about my friends, and I know that it was never about my own story. I just didn't want to let them down.

As a teacher, I try to embody that role for my kiddos. I want them to know that I appreciate them. I try to tell them about my experience, so they can see that I made it. That I continued my story. We all have excellent stories to live, and the idea of a semicolon as a sign to remember that is just perfect for us educators. We're on the front lines, and the relationships that we build with our students strengthen the continuation of their stories.

I want to thank @thenerdyteacher for blogging about Project Semicolon, and sharing it with our wonderful PLN on twitter. Please use the comments section to tell your story or add your thoughts.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Summer School Lessons

When I accepted the position at this high school, I agreed to also teach Geometry over the summer. Apparently, the school hadn't ever had a summer school geometry option before, so I'm blazing a new trail! All I have for guidance is that I have 6 weeks to teach an entire year of geometry. Yes, the kiddos have to take the same tests, and yes, they are expected to do the same amount of work.

Geometry summer school isn't like what you would image it, or at all close to what the movies would suggest it be. I don't have 4 hours a day with the typical "difficult" kiddo. (That's right, 4 hours a day for 6 weeks and an entire year of content--jealous?) Instead, I have 12 kiddos 10 of which are taking the course to get ahead. The reason? These are kiddos that would like to get to Calculus BC before the end of high school. Yes, they are the driven achievers that believe the ivy league is the only league. The kids that over the weekend are anticipating the problems I'm going to assign, and doing them. The same kids that are fighting me for an A+, because the A, or God forbid the A- is just not cutting it for them.

So why am I telling you this? I guess its more of the light shining on the inequalities of the education system. I wrote about the comparison between this district I'm in now, and my old district before here. The truth is that I feel like I'm an amazing teacher with these kids. The class average is a B+/A- and they have all completed every task, assignment, and challenge that I've given them. A four hour class flies by, and we have a great time. These kids aren't here as punishment. And for the majority of the students summer school isn't necessary for credit recovery purposes. Opportunity to bountiful here in our town, and it reflects even in our summer school.

When I try to figure out how an entire semester of Geometry can be successfully taught in just 3 weeks, I come to 3 main conclusions:

  1. I have only 12 students! In a four hour window, I can easily connect with each kid on every topic covered. Individual attention is almost guaranteed, so those 2 students that are re-taking this class are thriving in a super supportive setting. They know they can ask me anything, and it's familiar to them. Technically, this isn't brand new material. They've seen it already. 
  2. These 12 students are completely motivated. I have 10 kiddos that are pumped about getting ahead, and spend their time competing with each other on which of them is going to be done and correct first. That energy is pumping through the entire room! So instead of having a room of 32 kids that a mostly just "getting through" the hour of math each day, I'm surrounded by a crew that could be thriving in a classroom led by a monkey. They push each other; even the two re-takers!
  3. There are no other distractions. They are not worried about the English paper due, or the 2 other tests they have later that day. Their focus is only on Geometry. There is no lunch room drama, or passing period breakups (I experienced 2 of those... really ruins a day!). Just four hours of Geometry, and the kids love it! They want to do all of their classes this way, and ask me why we couldn't change the entire structure of education! For the two that are succeeding at a higher level than the first time, I can see the excitement in understanding the material in a way they didn't know possible. 
Ultimately, I'm working in the perfect classroom environment. I'm responsible for the educational success of 12 kids in one content area over a 6 week period. And these kids are amped to be here. The only way to make this fail would be if I visibly didn't want to be here. But then why would I be teaching? If I didn't myself get pumped up to be in a classroom with kids that wanted to learn, why would I do this job in the first place?

I'm excited to start the 2nd semester next week. I'm anticipating the addition of a few more students that didn't pass the second semester of geometry this past school year. It'll be interesting to see if they jump on the already rolling summer school bandwagon or if I'll have to drag them a little. Either way, this experience has been eye opening, and well... fun!

Use the comment section below to tell me about your own summer school experience as a teacher or a student. I'd love to hear your thoughts!