Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Twelve Days of Catmas

"On the first day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me…"

A Mega-Size Cuddly Purr

"On the second day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me…"

Two Legless Spiders

"On the third day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me…"

Three Whisker Kisses

"On the fourth day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me…"

Four Pounds of Hairballs 

"On the fifth day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me…"

Five Catnip Mice

"On the sixth day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me…"

Six Slapping Tail Wags

"On the seventh day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me…"

Seven Paw Massages

"On the eighth day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me…"

Eight Crumpled Papers

"On the ninth day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me..."

Nine Happy Lives

"On the tenth day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me…"

 Ten Goldfish Bones

 "On the eleventh day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me…"

  Eleven Feline Selfies

  "On the twelfth day of Catmas, my sweet cat gave to me…"

  Twelve Hours of Loving Lap Time

   “On the 12 days of Catmas!”

Have yourself a Meowy little Purrr-fect Catmas!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bounce This Along!

My mail carrier told me that the US Postal service sent out a message to all letter carriers to put a sheet of Bounce in their uniform pockets to keep yellow-jackets away. I use them all the time when playing baseball and soccer. I use it when I am working outside. It really works. The insects just veer around you.
All this time you've just been putting Bounce in the dryer!

  1. It will chase ants away when you lay a sheet near them. It also repels mice.
  2. Spread sheets around foundation areas, or in trailers, or cars that are sitting and it keeps mice from entering your vehicle.
  3. It takes the odor out of books and photo albums that don't get opened too often.
  4. It repels mosquitoes. Tie a sheet of Bounce through a belt loop when outdoors during mosquito season.
  5. Eliminate static electricity from your television (or computer) screen.
  6. Since Bounce is designed to help eliminate static cling, wipe your television screen with a used sheet of Bounce to keep dust from resettling.
  7. Dissolve soap scum from shower doors. Clean with a sheet of Bounce.
  8. To freshen the air in your home - Place an individual sheet of Bounce in a drawer or hang in the closet.
  9. Put Bounce sheet in vacuum cleaner.
  10. Prevent thread from tangling. Run a threaded needle through a sheet of Bounce before beginning to sew.
  11. Prevent musty suitcases. Place an individual sheet of Bounce inside empty luggage before storing.
  12. To freshen the air in your car - Place a sheet of Bounce under the front seat.
  13. Clean baked-on foods from a cooking pan. Put a sheet in a pan, fill with water, let sit overnight, and sponge clean. The anti-static agent apparently weakens the bond between the food and the pan.
  14. Eliminate odors in wastebaskets. Place a sheet of Bounce at the bottom of the wastebasket.
  15. Collect cat hair. Rubbing the area with a sheet of Bounce will magnetically attract all the lose hairs.
  16. Eliminate static electricity from Venetian blinds. Wipe the blinds with a sheet of Bounce to prevent dust from resettling.
  17. Wipe up sawdust from drilling or sand papering. A used sheet of Bounce will collect sawdust like a tack cloth.
  18. Eliminate odors in dirty laundry. Place an individual sheet of Bounce at the bottom of a laundry bag or hamper.
  19. Deodorize shoes or sneakers. Place a sheet of Bounce in your shoes or sneakers overnight.
  20. Golfers put a Bounce sheet in their back pocket to keep the bees away.
  21. Put a Bounce sheet in your sleeping bag and tent before folding and storing them. It will keep them smelling fresh.
  22. Wet a Bounce sheet, hose down your car, and wipe lovebugs off easily with the wet Bounce.
By TheBonster from MD

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Language of Soccer

By Tricia McCarthy, Assistant Principal, Howard County Public Schools
& Laurel Conran, ESOL Team Leader, Howard County Public Schools,
Elementary IS Co-Chair

Published in MDTESOL, Summer 2009

It was a hazy, humid May spring afternoon and the 5th graders were enjoying a game of soccer during their afternoon recess. This particular afternoon, the recess monitor brought the students to the front office to help settle a dispute that had arisen during recess. The students were having a physical altercation during a recess time soccer match. The disagreement primarily involved newly arrived limited English speaking students and the English speaking boys during the soccer game. Administration, ESOL teacher, and parent liaison listened to each boy’s side of the story. After listening to their stories, administration and staff realized that while both groups said they were playing soccer, it was clear that the students were playing by two different set of rules. 

For example, the American English-speaking boys were playing “street soccer.” Street soccer is simply what the name implies, a disorganized hodgepodge of running, kicking, and passing that somewhat imitates soccer. The game was not organized, rules were not set, and behavioral expectations were not clarified. While some students had a high level of understanding related to soccer rules, others had only a basic comprehension of the appropriate rules. The conflict arose when those who understood soccer, its rules and its outcomes were met by those students who played a disorganized game.  The outcome was FRUSTRATION for the players that knew how to play the game and for the students that do know how to play the game. One thing that became apparent to students, and staff alike was that recess soccer was not being played by a set of rules that both groups understood and could follow.

A quick review of cultural norms for the newly arriving students allowed staff to better understand soccer’s significance in the lives of these students. The limited English speaking students were very experienced soccer players. They understood the rules, played by them, and expressed frustration at trying to get their new English speaking peers to understand. As is the case for many new arrivals to our school, soccer is part of their culture. In other countries, students can go to any open field, and play. The game needs minimal equipment and is therefore easily accessible regardless of country or individual resources.
In contrast, youth sports in the US, are organized, and often cost money to play. Children must sign up for a sport or team, practice at a designated location, and more importantly, pay fees that are often prohibitive for newly arriving families. An interesting similarity among the majority of the students who played soccer at recess at our school was that most of them came from similar socio-economic backgrounds. In other words, the organized nature and monetary requirements kept both groups of students from participating in the local soccer clubs. 
The  (AP) assistant principal, a former PE teacher, school counselor and a soccer player with the help of the school counselor and teachers, facilitated a soccer tournament for the students during their recess. The students that were interested in playing soccer, signed up for the tournaments. The AP brought the children together and explained the basic soccer rules, chief among them was sportsmanship and an adherence to safety during play. Basic soccer vocabulary was taught to the students and demonstrated. For example, a throw in was defined, explained and demonstrated so that the level of understanding and comprehension was the same regardless of language.  Expectations were established and students were expected to follow the rules during their recess games. When the rules were explained, teams were formed and the tournament began.  The rules were followed and demonstrated when needed. The students played their soccer tournaments 2-3 times a week for 2 weeks. The students ended their games with a handshake. As the students learned to play together, referrals decreased!
Soccer Rules:
Only the goalkeeper may use their hands to catch or touch the ball.
No pushing will be allowed. Pushing another player will equal a warning, if you get two warnings, you have to sit out for five minutes and your team plays with one less player.

  • There are no corner kicks in our games.
  • There are throw ins in our games.
  • To score a goal, the ball must be kicked through the cones not over the cones.
  • Each game will begin with one team kicking off (i.e. passing the ball to a teammate from the center of the field).
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide which team kicked off first.
  • Games are played during recess time ONLY.
Teams should play 6 players vs. 6 players; extra players are subs.
All teams MUST have a goalkeeper.
One team on each field MUST wear the colored vests.
Each team should have one captain and come up with an appropriate name for their team.
Good sportsmanship is important. Players should shake hands with the other team at the end of every game.

Team Composition:
Six teams were chosen (48 total students; 8 students per team)
Teams were placed into two groups (A group, B Group)
Two games played at a time. The school soccer field was divided into two smaller fields for the games.
Games were officiated by staff members (AP, Band Teacher, Guidance Counselor):
 A win is worth 2pts, a tie is worth 1pt. A team receives no points for a loss.
Top team from each group will meet in the final.

Soccer Vocabulary:

Goal: The space or opening that a soccer ball must go through to score a point. Also, the score gained by getting the ball through the cones.

Throw-In: returning a soccer ball to play from the sideline by propelling it from behind the head with both hands.

Hand Ball:  When a player, other than the goal-keeper, touches or “hands” the soccer ball during a game. When this happens, the other team is awarded a free kick.

Foul: Behaving in a way that is unfair or unacceptable (ie. Pushing or kicking an opponent)

Sportsmanship:  Showing respect for others and the rules of the game. Being gracious in victory and defeat.
What we learned:

Some amazing outcomes presented themselves both during and after the recess soccer tournament.  First, student behavior during recess improved. With the majority of our fifth graders involved in the organized soccer tournament, discipline issues and subsequent referrals decreased. Those students who didn’t play in the tournament, often watched from the sidelines, cheering on or supporting friends. Behavior during the matches was appropriate and each match ended with the requisite handshake.
Secondly, students began to share their soccer background with their peers. Teams were strategically comprised of students from many different backgrounds and cultures to help facilitate the building of friendships that continued in the community.
Third, staff began to see a connection between improved classroom behavior and a increased sense of class unity. Our fifth grade staff shared examples of how students who might otherwise not have spent time with one another began to work together, talk more frequently, and develop respect for each other.
Finally, it wasn’t just about the soccer anymore. It was about building relationships with our students, assisting them in working through conflict, respecting the cultural diversity of one another, and playing a little soccer too. Clearly, the lessons learned for both staff and students far and away exceeded the dimensions of the soccer field. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

We Must Define Ourselves, and if we don’t, Others Will Define Us

Today, I was inspired.  I was inspired by the dedicated  ESL Teachers who chose to spend their Saturday together with other ESL teachers.  ESL Teachers are a very closely-knit group of advocates who work tirelessly to support English Learners.  They are often misunderstood, or, even worse, inappropriately defined.  I was inspired by what Cynthia Lundgren said at the end of her presentation.  She said, “We must define ourselves, and if we don’t, others will define us.”  Out of that line a poem was born.  This poem reflects many of my experiences I’ve had an ESL teacher, and I hope it resonates with many of you.

I am defined as…

I am defined as another reading teacher who takes a group of kids and works on phonics, decoding, and blending!

I am defined as a homework helper who helps English learners finish an assignment that’s way over students’ head.

I am defined as a parent substitute who works on a science project and shops at Wallmart for poster board and markers.

I am defined as a teacher’s aid who works with all students who need help, not just English learners.

I am defined as that teacher down the hall who helps those Mexicans learn English.

I am defined as a social worker who gets coats, gloves, and snow pants for “those poor kids.”

I am defined as a family liaison who gets the parents to the conferences.

I am defined as a grammar teacher who works on English grammar and vocabulary. 

Sometimes I am defined as a gatekeeper who doesn’t let English learners be labeled as “special ed” just because they struggle in academic English even though they are “fluent” English speakers.

Often I am defined as a polyglot who “must speak all of those languages to help the kids from 20 different countries.”

Others in my profession define me as an advocate, who gives voice to the voiceless and empowers the powerless.

Very rarely I am defined as a language teacher whose role is to accelerate the academic achievement by providing language support.

Not just phonics support
Not just homework support
Not just science project support,
But a critical linguistic foundation that mediates and facilitates all learning for English learners! 

So, if you define me with any of the above, here is a lesson for you:

We are highly skilled teachers who lay the very language foundation without which no other learning can take place.
And if there is one lesson we, the ESL teacher must learn, it is this:

We must define ourselves, and if we don’t, others will define us. 
~Written by Ruslana Westerlund


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dancing with Daffodils!

“And then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the Daffodils!”

I have always been memorized with the yellow flowers with a trumpet-shaped central corona with  bright smiley faces! Each flower is so unique and so different.
The garden Daffodil's ancestors came from the states around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Spain and Portugal and the Middle East, such as Turkey. The earliest record mentioned about Daffodils was around two or three hundred years B.C. They were grown extensively by the ancient Greeks and the Romans. 

Daffodils nevertheless became a forgotten flower until about 1600 and even in 1860, there were fewer than 350 cultivated hybrids.  Around 1629, a group of Englishmen took the Daffodil out of the weeds and put it into the garden. Daffodils were in favor again.  During the days of the American experience and the expansion west, Daffodils were well established as a "must have" in the garden and I want all of them! Daffodils were also brought to Britain by the Romans who thought that the sap from Daffodils had healing powers. Actually the sap contains crystals that can irritate the skin.

Dancing with Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

~ William Wordsworth

How to pick the right daffodil for you!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Butterfly Easter

The Butterfly Easter

The butterfly has long been a Christian symbol of the resurrection, for it disappears into a cocoon and appears dead, but emerges later far more beautiful and powerful than before.  The three stages of the butterfly’s metamorphoses are symbolic of the three stages in the life cycle of Christ and the Christian.
The caterpillar’s non-stop eating reminds us of normal earthly life where people are often preoccupied with taking care of their physical needs.  The caterpillar’s life also reminds us of Jesus’ life on earth.

Caterpillars then “entomb” themselves in what appears to be lifeless cocoons portraying the crucifixion and burial of Jesus and the death of all humans.

The third and final stage is the appearance of a butterfly with jewel-colored wings and the ability to soar, which represents the resurrection into a new and glorious life free of material concerns and restrictions.
A major theme in Paul’s teachings is that “we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51).  The Christian hope is that what is sown in the grave as a weak mortal body will be raised an indestructible spiritual body not subject to temptation, sorrow, death, or pain (1 Cor. 15:44-54).  Through death the spirit will escape – not from its body but from the vulnerabilities and hardships of mortal flesh.
What better symbol of the Resurrection — an inanimate object out of which
comes life.  Butterflies are the perfect symbol of the tomb Christ conquered and every Christian’s hope of their own rebirth.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Does the Easter Bunny have to do with Easter?

“Do you know about the tradition of the Easter Bunny and the Easter eggs?”

The Easter Bunny or Easter Rabbit is a character depicted as a rabbit bringing Easter eggs, who sometimes is depicted with clothes. In legend, the Easter bunny brings baskets filled with colored eggs, candy and sometimes also toys to the homes of children, and as such shows similarities to Santa Claus (Christmas) as they both bring gifts to children on the night before their respective holiday.

Rabbits and Hares
The hare was a popular motif in medieval church art. In ancient times it was widely believed (as by Pliny, Plutarch, Philostratus and Aelian) that the hare was hermaphrodite. The idea that a hare could reproduce without loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary, with hares sometimes occurring in illuminated manuscripts and Northern European paintings of the Virgin and Christ Child. It may also have been associated with the Holy Trinity, as in the three hares motif, representing the "One in Three and Three in One" of which the triangle or three interlocking shapes such as rings are common symbols. 
 (Window of Three Hares) in Paderborn Cathedral in Paderborn, Germany.

Easter Eggs
The precise origin of the ancient custom of decorating eggs is not known, although evidently the blooming of many flowers in spring coincides with the use of the fertility symbol of eggs—and eggs boiled with some flowers change their color, bringing the spring into the homes. Many Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church to this day typically dye their Easter eggs red, the color of blood, in recognition of the blood of the sacrificed Christ (and, of the renewal of life in springtime). Some also use the color green, in honor of the new foliage emerging after the long dead time of winter.

German Protestants wanted to retain the Catholic custom of eating colored eggs for Easter, but did not want to introduce their children to the Catholic rite of fasting. Eggs were forbidden to Catholics during the fast of Lent, which was the reason for the abundance of eggs at Easter time.

The idea of an egg-laying bunny came to the U.S. in the 18th century. German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the "Osterhase" (sometimes spelled "Oschter Haws". "Hase" means "hare", not rabbit, and in Northwest European folklore the "Easter Bunny" indeed is a hare, not a rabbit. According to the legend, only good children received gifts of colored eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets before Easter.

“For me, understanding the history and the symbols of a holiday is like a healthy tree with deep roots.”

Was it a Morning Like This? 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Irish-Family Style


The Irish have a reputation for their wit and humour – which they call having ‘the craic’ [pronounced crack]. As well as quick tongued with jokes they also make eloquent and witty speakers. They pride themselves on being able to find humour and it is often self-deprecating or ironic. It is common for the Irish to trade insults and tease one another (called “slagging”) with people to whom they are close. If you are teased, it is important to take it well and not see it as personal. They have a rich history in storytelling which was used to pass information down through the generations (poems and songs also served the same purpose).
Etiquette and Customs in Ireland

Meeting Etiquette
  • The basic greeting is a handshake and a hello or salutation appropriate for the time of day.
  • Eye contact denotes trust and is maintained during a greeting.
  • It is customary to shake hands with older children.
  • Greetings tend to be warm and friendly and often turn into conversations.

Gift Giving Etiquette
  • In general, the Irish exchange gifts on birthdays and Christmas.
  • A gift need not be expensive. It is generally thought in giving something personal that counts.
  • If giving flowers, do not give lilies as they are used at religious festivities. Do not give white flowers as they are used at funerals.
  • Gifts are usually opened when received.

Visiting a Home
  • If you are invited to an Irish home be on time (chances are food has been cooked and being late could spoil it)
  • Bring a box of good chocolates, a good bottle of wine for to the host.
  • Offer to help with clearing the dishes after a meal.
  • Table manners are relatively relaxed and informal.
  • The more formal the occasion, the stricter the protocol. When in doubt, watch what others are doing.
  • Table manners are Continental, i.e. the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should remain visible and not be in your lap.

Business Etiquette and Protocol in Ireland

Meeting and Greeting
  • Irish businesspeople are generally less formal and more outwardly friendly than in many European countries.
  • Shake hands with everyone at the meeting.
  • Handshakes should be firm and confident.
  • Shake hands at the beginning and end of meetings.
  • Make sure to smile!
  • The Irish are generally rather casual and quickly move to first names.
  • Business cards are exchanged after the initial introductions without formal ritual.
  • Many businesspeople do not have business cards, so you should not be offended if you are not offered one in return.

Communication Style
The Irish have turned speaking into an art form. Their tendency to be lyrical and poetic has resulted in a verbal eloquence. They use stories and anecdotes to relay information and value a well-crafted message. How you speak says a lot about you in Ireland.
The Irish appreciate modesty and can be suspicious of people who are loud and tend to brag. They dislike a superiority complex of any sort. So, for example, when discussing your professional achievements it is best to casually insert the information in short snippets during several conversations rather than embarking on a long self-centred outline of your successes.
Communication styles vary from direct to indirect depending upon who is being spoken to. There is an overall cultural tendency for people to view politeness as more important than telling the absolute truth. This means that you may not easily receive a negative response. When you are being spoken to, listen closely. A great deal may be implied, beyond what is actually being said. For example, if someone becomes silent before agreeing, they have probably said “no”. They may also give a non-committal response. This may be due to the fact that the Gaelic language does not have words for “yes” or “no”. There is a tendency to use understatement or indirect communication rather than say something that might be contentious.
Generally speaking they do not like confrontation and prefer to avoid conflict, which they attempt to avoid by being humorous and showing good manners.

Business Meetings

Company or organisational cultures differ widely in Ireland. As a result you may find meetings vary in their approach and substance. In one setting the purpose of a meeting is to relay information on decisions that have already been made, whereas in another it may be the time to get feedback and input.
Following on from this, meetings may be structured or unstructured. In most cases they will be relaxed. It is customary to have a period of small talk before the actual meeting which is when a rapport is built to take forward into the meeting.

Meetings may occur in several venues, not merely the office. It is quite common to conduct a business meeting in a restaurant or pub. This allows all participants to be on equal footing. 

Expect a great deal of discussion at meetings. Everyone is expected to participate and they do, often at great length. The Irish like to engage in verbal banter and pride themselves on being able to view a problem from every angle.

The Limerick Song

The history of St. Patrick-a short story