* Reflect & Grow

Jumpstart your week with Michelle Malone’s Monday encouragement. I am going to follow her lead: reflect on my experiences and NO complaining. Wise woman, Michelle!

Good Monday morning, friends! What a beautiful day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad today and every day. Yesterday I participated in a Twitter Chat for educators — something I hadn’t done in quite some time. I truly enjoy these opportunities to chat with educators from all over the globe about those issues we all have in common no matter where we reside. It was a 30-minute chat with five questions about the importance of being a reflective leader.

I could hardly wait for the chat to start because this topic interests me. Of course, I had plenty to share, but I really wanted to hear what other school leaders (in particular) had to say. The common thread throughout our time together was growth. You really can’t grow as a teacher, leader, or just an average Joe without reflecting on your practices. That really resonated with me.

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* Catching up

I’m sorry that I’ve been hit or miss with my blog for awhile now.  Medical issues and work have derailed my best-laid plans.  Here are a few updates on my life.

This week, I spent quite a few hours programming Communicator 5 on a Tobii Dynavox I-12+ device.  The I-12 is a terrific stand-alone eye gaze device with a sturdy case (gorilla glass), amazing technology, and a Windows 10 operating system.  tobiidynavox-iseries-i12-1920x1080.jpg

Communicator 5 is Tobii’s intuitive program for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).  With the handy, downloadable manual, it’s a snap to set up a cool homepage with lots of links.  Granted, I still have to fix a few flaws, but I’m pleased with how user-friendly this system is.  For kids who need a voice, Communicator 5 can be a game changer.

Speaking of games, my nephew Christopher has a new game plan: “Never let Aunt Katharine catch me for a hug after church.”  He loves the idea of hugs but he adores the chase even more!  I couldn’t wait to see his latest scheme today.  I was not disappointed.  The gang came piling out of Sunday School, asking me if I knew where to find Christopher.  None of us mentioned that there was a ghost lingering behind the chairs, eyes glistening with excitement.  After I caught him, his sister got into the act.  Sister Act?  Groan….

sister-act

My dearest widower took me on a date last night!  Woohoo!  We watched John Wick, Chapter 2.  Not for the faint of heart.  We had an interesting discussion at lunch with our son and his wife (happy birthday to her!) about whether John Wick portrays a parallel universe.  If so, I’m glad to be in ours!  Keanu Reeves brings gun-fu to a new level.

 

john-wick

Image from Film Music Reporter, where you can purchase the soundtrack.

I hope you have a great week!  I’m eager to catch up on the Color Your World blogging challenge, share some math ideas, and post a review of the second book in the Nick Hall series.

* Nick Hall in “Mind’s Eye”

minds-eye

The Nick Hall thriller series by Douglas E. Richards is a winner!  But how do I describe this intense page-turner without giving away too much?  I can say that Richards has created a likeable and resilient protagonist who finds his world tipped upside down and turned inside out.  Nick Hall has been through hell and continues to face earthly devils who would destroy him without breaking a sweat.  Nick stumbles his way into relationships with a resourceful woman, the head of a military PsyOps division, and computer geeks.  As he runs for his life, you will be urging him onward, hoping that somehow he’ll stay sane and survive.

Richards has done his homework- and more- on technology, love on the run, and supervillians.  Of course, with his background in microbiology and genetic engineering (with mutant viruses named after him), Richards knows what he is about.  The premise underlying “Mind’s Eye” is quite unusual but compelling.  I never had to suspend disbelief because the characters themselves struggle to believe what’s happening.  As Nick and Megan wind through this labyrinth of suspense, they ask and answer all my questions.  If you love thrillers, if you want to witness a battle with humanity’s destiny at stake, “Mind’s Eye” will satisfy!

* What is homework?

To my nephew, Isaac, homework is “tor-tradition,” meaning torture + tradition.  See?  He has some math sense and lots of common sense.  Poor Isaac.  As third grade has shifted into hypermode to prepare for the end of grade tests, he has been left dangling. There’s not enough time for remediation after school, not with the tor-traditional piles of homework.  Fortunately, he has a flexible teacher who is now willing to let him move through the multiplication.com system of learning his times tables.  After months of trying more traditional (and yes, torturous approaches), I switched to Alan Walker‘s language- and association-based approach.  It has paid off bigtime for Isaac, providing him with a dose of much-needed confidence.  But is it too little and too late?

isaac-1

Isaac would benefit from a formal educational and psychological evaluation.  He appears to have serious weaknesses in auditory processing skills, along with attention, working memory, and long term memory issues.  His success in reading fluency camouflages many of his weaknesses.  Sometimes both teachers, parents, and kids think everything is fine if you can read above grade level.  Ouch.  Try giving Isaac multistep directions and watch the confusion.  And like many twice exceptional kids, Isaac’s mental energy has been fried to a crisp after half a day of school.  His teachers report that he spends his afternoons in silence, never responding and apparently inattentive.  At home, he screams and bangs his head when it’s time for homework.  Torture indeed.

I don’t think it’s too late for this sweet kiddo.  He is eager to learn, responds well to instruction in incremental steps, and has enough curiosity for an entire classroom.  And he can do a perfect Patrick or Spongebob imitation.  Isaac can go far, especially if a certain tortuous traditions can be axed.

* Water crisis over!

Whew!  After our city had declared a state of emergency due to a fluoride issue-water main break, we are now back to taking showers and flushing toilets.  How much we take water for granted!  I had to tape off the faucets because I automatically reached for one all the time.  Who knew I washed my hands so much?  What an adventure we had Friday evening with about 25 folks in our home group, sharing toilet tanks that had to be filled by hand.  We resurrected Jerry Brown’s poem (governor of California during a serious water rationing period): Yellow is mellow, brown goes down.

The water crisis was a relatively brief and local one, but tens of thousands of us descended on nearby counties in a desperate hunt for bottled water.  As I waited in line with my own cart packed to the gills with food AND water, I asked a guy in the next line if I could take a photo of what we were all doing: emptying Durham County of its bottled water.

bottled-water

We are blessed and spoiled with our clean running water.  And our electricity and abundance of grocery stores.  And the money to shop.  And the freedom to worship.  Our entitlement goes deep.  I read angry Tweets about living like a third world country.  Oh, the very idea!  Seriously, I have no idea how wretched that would be.  I’m just glad that we had working toilets when the kiddos arrived last night and running water for our Super Bowl event (pun intended).

Now enjoying our blessings and trying to figure out how to store gallons of water….