New Year, New Things to Try

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I started this blog years ago as a way to connect with my students outside the classroom. In the beginning, I was great about writing every week or so, but I petered out as time went on. Last semester was my busiest teaching load of all time. I finally hit the limit of what I can physically do. My workload is going to be much lighter in the Spring. Although I’ll miss the extra funds, I hope to find more time for things like writing, maybe even daily writing. Here are some projects I am working on in 2018:

  1. Downhill skiing: I’ve been snowboarding, and I’m a pretty decent ice skater, but I’ve never tried skiing. This will be my year.
  2. Learn to play a song on the piano: I’m sort of cheating with this one, because I started learning Schubert’s Lilac Serenade this past summer. It’s beautiful. Mind you, I don’t actually know how to play the piano. I’m just figuring out where my fingers should go, note by note, verse by verse. I don’t have 10 years to master this skill. I just want to learn to play a song.
  3. Visit all the galleries in the Met Museum: I go here quite a bit, but I still get lost and forget where my favorite exhibits are. This place is HUGE, and I’d love to explore it more methodically.
  4. Read 15 new books: French & English, fiction and non-fiction. This is not too difficult, because I am a member of a serious, super exclusive book club.
  5. Learn to do a crown braid.
  6. Some physical activity every week day: Yoga counts. A brisk walk in the morning or evening counts, if I go for at least 30 mins. Getting 10k steps counts.
  7. Visit the largest planetarium in the western hemisphere: This just opened in New Jersey a couple weeks ago, and I am SOOOOO excited to check it out. The museum is located a short distance from the PATH train, so it’s doable.
  8. Experiment with new recipes at least bimonthly: I have a couple new cook books I need to crack open. This is my year.
  9. Do at least part of the DC Museum circuit: I only put this in because I’m for sure going over Martin Luther King Day weekend. 🙂 I’ve only been to DC to protest to government and attend a conference. It’s time to see what more they have to offer.
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So Long, Summer

IMG_4866I packed up my beach bag this morning and stashed it away in the closet for another year. School starts tomorrow, and it’s time to make room for more serious things. Still, I had a great summer! I kicked things off with a trip to Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Budapest. It was my first time in Central/Eastern Europe! I especially loved the mirror maze in Prague and the Museum of Music in Vienna. It was fun to explore the salt mine in Salzburg, and spending half a day at the bath house in Budapest was the right choice. I  pretty much subsisted on cheese, pretzel bread, chocolate and cherries, but it was a magical time.

IMG_5128I came right back and started a performing arts residency at St. John the Divine here in New York City. We took an imaginary trip around the world in a hot air balloon, and we explored different countries through song, dance, and creative drama. Then, I guided the children through an immersive theatre piece called The Mystery of the Missing Mummy. In our production, we received a notice that a mummy had gone missing from the Met Museum, and the kids went through an Egyptologist “certification” training so that we could hunt it down and return it. The mummy left us lots of clues to follow around the cathedral, and it was fun to watch the kids get into it. “We have to find him,” they said. “It’s up to us to protect the camp!” I’ve been exploring soundscape, and how music and sound effects can establish time, place, and mood for the audience. These are 5-8 year olds, so sometimes they would get a little freaked out. I have to reign it in for the kiddos. 🙂

IMG_5383My last trip of the summer was to Salem, Oregon to see the Great American Eclipse. I flew into Seattle, and drove down to Oregon with my family. We ended up camping on a Christmas tree farm, and watching the eclipse from there. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect – crystal clear skies. And pictures just don’t capture what the sun is really doing in totality. If you get a chance to experience it live, take it!!

 

 

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Keep the Owl Happy

duolingo-owlDuoLingo is my daily French app. I log in 6 days a week, and spend maybe 5 minutes doing a set of French exercises. The app’s mascot is this bright green owl, and he’s only happy when you practice. You get sad emails with a crying owl if you skip a day. It’s more motivating than you’d think. No one wants a sad owl! A friend and I created a club in the app called “Les Petites Pidgeons” that is super popular. It pretty much filled up the minute we created it. We even kick people out of the club from time to time, if they don’t do any work, or they do SO many exercises duolingo2that no one can even touch them on the leaderboard. As soon as there is a spot open in our club, someone jumps on it. We never have an opening for more than a minute. Today was my first day back to the community college after Spring Break. I really enjoy teaching, but I’ll be honest – it was soooooo nice to have a break. I feel recharged and reset. Now, if only I could find something to eat besides marshmallow Peeps and chocolate bunnies… 😦

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Taboo

TabooDid you ever play Taboo as a kid? It’s that game where you have a word on a card, and you have to make people guess that word without using any “taboo” terms. Like, if you want them to guess moon, you can’t say “space,” “planet,” “astronaut,” “cheese,” “sky,” etc. I love that game! I’m pretty good at it too. Every other month I get together to play Taboo in French at the French Alliance here in NYC. This is the best exercise I can think of for a 2nd language learner, because it teaches you how to problem solve your communication blocks. When you don’t have the words you want, you have to come up with new ways of getting at that idea, and that is where you really find confidence in your communication skills. Although you don’t know everything, what you have is enough to get your ideas across. My group won the Taboo game this week (you play on teams), which is a miracle, because I’ve been living off chocolate rabbits and leftover ham this past week. Ugh. However, I am training for a 5k in May! I go running at least once a week, and I’m trying to get down to a 9 minute mile from about 9:30. I have about a month left to get ready. Wish me luck!

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Those Who Can’t Do Teach

french-teacherDon’t laugh, but I’m actually a French teacher. I have two students who come for a private lesson once a week. Am I qualified for this? Well, these girls are absolute beginners, and I definitely know more French than they do. It’s not a case of the blind leading the blind. In George Bernard Shaw’s play, Man and Superman, he writes, “He who can, does; he who cannot, teachers.” I try to use lots of videos so that the girls have the chance to hear a native French speaker. I don’t want to lead them completely astray. Teaching is 2nd best way I know to really master something. The best way is immersion. Sink or swim. Get in a situation where you have no choice by to use the skill you are trying to learn. Still, teaching French has been good for me. When I have to explain a concept to someone else, I find that I understand it better. I have a textbook to keep me focused, but I try to fill my actual classes with speaking, writing and listening activities. It’s a lot of fun for me, and the time is always up before I’m ready for it. Today for my French activity I watched a short French film on Youtube about a kid who loved to play the piano. There were both English and French subtitles, and the music was really beautiful! On a sad note, I barely missed my 10k steps today – there were still about 200 steps to go at 11:57pm. 😦

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21 Days of French

I haven’t posted anything on here in forever. However, my semester is calming down a bit and I am ready to do another 21 Days project. When I was in college, I needed an extra Liberal Arts electIMG_0267ive, and I thought a language course would be useful. I toyed with the idea of a Spanish class, but the French textbook had a more interesting cover. After that first class I was pretty much hooked. I had a tough couple of years where I struggled with the guttural “r” and the liaison made it hard for me to understand native speakers. However, a study abroad in Northern France tipped the scale for me, and I now am pretty comfortable communicating in most french-speaking situations. I still struggle with advanced grammar, and my vocabulary is never big enough to share all my thoughts and feelings. Still, I can get by. For the next 21 days I will find a new way to practice and develop my communication skills in French each day. I’ll play around with different apps and websites, scope out websites, review books, music, movies, and find French cultural organizations in NYC. This will be a fun project before I take off to Eastern Europe for three weeks in May! I am sooooo excited to visit Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Budapest, and Berlin!!

 

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Spring Forward

1916551_10154066164004108_4862407059612869124_n (1)I am so ready for spring. We’ve been cold long enough! It’s time for the sun to do it’s job and warm things up a little. This weekend we celebrated Easter, and it got me thinking about how I can resurrect my New Year’s resolutions and get back on track. I’ve been crazy busy with work this past month and a half. I have my highest teaching load yet, and I’m also presenting at a couple conferences and participating in a diversity training forum. Good news – I won a grant to take a group of student to the United Nations for a tour! It will be part of my unit on Persuasion, and I’m really excited about it.

Where have I faded away with my goals this year? Exercise! My Mom is killing it, but I am lucky if I get in a 3-mile run once a week, and maybe a yoga class. Our original goal was five 30+ minute sessions a week. I feel like that is still doable. Time to recommit.

I am also ready to do some spring cleaning. My apartment is small, and my rent is too hight to justify using this place as a storage unit. It’s time to go through my belongings again and see what I can let go of.

This Spring I am going to get back in shape with my family’s workout challenge. I also want to finish at least ONE puppet for my theatre project, and I need to start my 4-week sugar cleanse. I will be a grumpy bunny for the first few treatless weeks of the plan, so I have to be strategic about the start date. It certainly can’t be a week when my students are turning in papers. Ugh.

 

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