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Tri 2014By the numbers:

Swim: .5 miles

Times I wanted to quit the race during the swim: 7

Times I wanted to heave in Cherry Creek Reservoir: 3

Bike ride: 11.4 miles

Times I cried on the bike ride: 2 (thinking of dear friends)

Walk: 5k

Times I cried on Cherry Creek dam: 1 (thinking about positive change in the air)

Times I uttered my mantra “And this:” 112

Calories ingested after the race: too many to count

I signed up for this Tri in May thinking that two friends were going to join me. I found out a few weeks earlier that they wouldn’t be able to do the race, so I decided then to bail on it as well. The Sunday before the race while celebrating my dad’s birthday I found out that my cousin’s wife was in the Tri in a relay team. I’m a believer in Signs From The Universe, so I decided that I’d better follow through and show up bright and early August 3. I stayed at her place Saturday night so we could drive to the race together, which was great. I may have bailed at the last minute.

Tri numbersThe swim was way more grueling than I had remembered. I did every stroke except the butterfly for that half-mile. (I don’t know how to to the butterfly or I may have!) I seriously didn’t want to finish the swim. My calf cramped. I choked down way too much lake water. I was nauseated. The swim finish seemed farther and farther away with every gasp. Not great, Bob. The end of the swim did obviously happen. I’m not sure how I swam faster than last time! I did zero training this summer.

The bike ride was beautiful. I’m not sure how I added to my time (I love the symmetry in my bike times, though). Again, I didn’t train for the race intentionally so I’m not exactly sure what I expected.

The walk time was much-improved. I walk a lot and work on bettering my time, so I expected to “race” faster here. Also improved this time was my overall endurance. In 2009 I felt like I was suffering from heat stroke half-way through the 5k. This time I felt hydrated and energetic and it shows in my time.

Now, the transitions were not great at all. I dinked around big time here. I took music this time and futzed with my headphones between the swim and bike legs. A volunteer told me that I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything (but I did with one earbud out). On the transition between the bike and walk, I left my music at my station since I try to follow the rules. When I was almost to the walk start, I saw many other women with earbuds in. So I doubled back to get my music knowing a) it would add to my transition time and b) I would walk faster with music. So, even though my overall time was slower, my actual race time improved.

I’ve committed to the race again next summer. My aunt was at the race cheering for us and actually jumped in and ran with me for the last 20 yards or so (the only time I’ve run in two years, ha). She’s super psyched to join me next summer to complete her first tri. It’s a gratifying and empowering experience in all.

Work in progress.

Work in progress 2011/2014.

One of the themes at the ADE 2014 Global Institute was “Changing Landscapes.” It made me reflect on the ways I’ve changed physically, personally and professionally since becoming and ADE in 2011. I’ve written about dieting before in my other blog and often say that I’ve been dieting since I was ten. That is not an exaggeration, sadly. If I’m not actively on a diet, I am constantly thinking about what I’m eating now or next or how I need to be exercising more. It’s an exhausting and oftentimes self-destructive thought process. I also don’t generally advertise that I am on diet* for a plethora of reasons, including fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being constantly monitored for what I put or don’t put in my mouth, et cetera. Oh, hey, I just noticed that “fear” is a recurring theme there. That’s the beauty of writing; I get to find out what’s going on in my brain.

I just passed the 33-pound mark and while I have a ways to go, I know I’m on a good path. I feel healthier and stronger, thanks to the Pure Barre, RIPPED and walking that I’ve been doing. I’m doing my second triathlon this weekend even though I haven’t done enough swimming this summer. Oh, well. I’ll have fun and finish the race regardless.

Personally (I played with the word “mentally” but that sounded weird), I’ve been practicing being in the present, slowing down my mind to appreciate what’s around me now. Letting go (of fears, assumptions, baggage), trusting (myself mostly) and surrendering (to experiences) are all ideas I’m working on this year. Jen shared this quote with me from Paradise in Plain Sight: “What a relief to accept that you will never get your act together. Then it is no longer an act” (emphasis mine). It’s hard to just be. Most times I like the idea of it more than living it. I guess that’s part of “the work,” yes?

Professionally, I’ve become a full-time administrator, rather than having two .5 gigs. Thank Jebus, because coordinating our IB Programme and being an assistant principal at the same time meant that I did neither job well. I’ve grown the most in approaching conflicts. I am conflict-averse and have to have many crucial conversations in my job. I have an awesome boss who handles conflict in a calm, direct, non-judgmental way, so my mission is to learn as much as I can from his example. Like the other areas, I still have a ways to go here as well.

*Vulnerability alert.

Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines

You know how you can buy orange juice concentrate? Having attending three ADE Institutes (2011 Phoenix, 2013 Austin, 2014 La Jolla) I can’t think of any other times in my life where I live in what I consider concentrate form: we spend a week with hundreds of other people eating, talking and traveling together. There’s little time for sleep! I’d hate to miss out on something cool (aka FOMO). It’s not easy to describe to others who haven’t experienced an Institute. I find that when I do try, I end up crying. Crying because I miss the constant laughing, the camaraderie of new-found friends, and the comfort of old friends that are family. There’s a hole in my heart when I have to say goodbye. No joke, it takes me a couple of weeks to recover. 

The week together proved that spending time cultivating and celebrating relationships is invaluable. (Side note: How can we expect kids to learn together if we don’t let them come together as people first?) As co-learners we explored new landscapes, uncovered histories and investigated mysteries like scientists might.  While studying languages is more my thing, it was good to be pushed beyond my comfort level, namely by being a citizen scientist and trying to sketch my learning.

A long way to go.

A long way to go.

Other learning take-aways for the week, in no particular order:

  1. While Drew Berry was specifically talking about science at the time, it holds true for any content: “Don’t dumb it down.” When I hear that classes aren’t “rigorous” enough, it may be because they’ve been dumbed down. Edit the tasks, not the content.
  2. Douglas Kiang spoke about coding in a way that opened my eyes to its secret power (I knew it was powerful but making it people-centered spoke to me): “What matters most is connecting with others.” 
  3. Process time is really important. We need to be sure to build this in for our students (of all ages).
  4. There is a difference between storytelling and lecturing. 
  5. Be present. I have to work hard on being present, in general. I conscientiously focused on the experience last week mostly because I didn’t want it to end and also I wanted it lodged in my memory. I tried to soak in the landscapes I saw with my eyes as open as possible and listen as intently as I could. It didn’t slow down the time, but I have clear memories of the sights and sounds of the week. 
  6. Jen and I had a lovely conversation with Rebecca Stockley the morning we were flying out. The term “witness” came up as we talked about the experience of the Institute and trying to take it all in, being present and remembering it all. That’s the beauty of the shared experience–we bear witness to the good and the bad and take that with us. 
  7. Related, Jen and I talked a lot after the Institute about the love and respect that was palpable in the ADE ballroom and around the campus. Last Friday afternoon when Rebecca asked us to close our eyes and think about being an ADE, I suddenly found the energy in the room emotionally overwhelming and had a little meltdown during the celebration, bordering full-on ugly cry. I love that ADE Institutes provide a safe place where I can be filter-free and goofy for a whole week with people I love and respect. 


Scripps Beach

Scripps Beach

In reviewing last year’s list, I still need to finish a couple of books. I am almost done with Committed and am thoroughly enjoying Gilbert’s views and history of marriage.

This summer’s reading includes the following:

  •  I started reading Cutting for Stone earlier in the year, but I decided it was a better summer read since I can only read a few minutes each night before crashing. This novel’s language is rich and the story engaging, so it requires a little more focus than others I might read.
  • Speaking of focus, I’m trudging through Schmoker’s Focus. For the most part, I do not enjoying work-related books, but recognize that it is a necessary evil. On the plus side, I love saying “Schmoker.”
  • My grandmother recently gave me a big stack of novels to read. I’m starting with The Whistling Season and Out Stealing Horses.
If you haven’t read the following novels, I highly recommend them for your summer reading pleasure:
Are you on GoodReads? Find me there.

I am a lousy storyteller. I tend to get to the middle of a story and forget where I am going. I was keenly aware of this when I lived with a Mexican family in Monterrey and attempted to tell elaborate stories in Spanish. What was difficult in my native tongue was 100 times more so in my second language.

I have been passively following the ds106 assignments and hash tags for the past couple of weeks in my efforts to better my storytelling skills. After reading Dean Shareski’s post tonight, I decided to try this one where you create a story from song titles and even sign it with a song title. I scanned through my music in iTunes and dumped the songs that I thought would fit into a story into a playlist. Then I culled through that playlist, saw that I had a theme going and pulled the story below together. I invite you to try it yourself!

In an effort to motivate me to practice the piano, my mom would preach, “Practice makes perfect!” Perfection was never my goal. My goal was to survive each recital without forgetting the notes. The pressure of memorizing pieces for those recitals was painful. My piano teacher would say things like “Stinky poo!” or “<Insert composer’s name here> is rolling over in his grave right now!” It’s really no wonder that I wanted to quit my lessons weekly. I only forgot the notes once when I had to make up the ending to a song. I’m sure that composer shuddered a bit in his grave that night.

My sister-in-law’s mom tends to say, “Practice makes practice.” My brother and I just look at each other and shrug because neither of us understands that one. It makes me think of those biblical passages with all the begats: Abraham begat Isaac who begat Jacob who begat Joseph and so on. Who wants to practice only to practice more only to practice even more? I’m sure this points to my tendency to want to finish something in order to move on to the next great thing.

So, what matters more? The process or the product? The journey or the destination? I keep coming back to that phrase and was asked it in an interview last summer. I love the product, whether it’s the recital, the presentation or the finished knit good, but I struggle with enjoying the process–the tedious lessons, the countless edits, the frogging (rip it rip it) of the knitting. My personal growth plan for 2011 includes embracing the process and starting to enjoy the journey.


I recently assigned another project. I’m so pleased with how much effort the majority of my students put into their learning. This time they’re convincing their classmates to join them in volunteering for their selected service organization. The assessment comes from the textbook’s website, but I’ve tweaked it, as usual, to suit my students.

While working on this project last Thursday, a couple of sets of students asked for a pass to the library so they could research their organizations on the school computers. I sent them on their way. In the time it took them to walk to the library, another group whipped out an iPhone and began investigating their organization immediately. No muss, and no fuss from me. If all of my students had a device with that ability, which many do, I’d never have to reserve a lab again.

Last week in class a student was texting during a partner activity. Half-joking, I asked her if she was phoning a friend for help. She was! She was doing the same thing I do when I don’t know how to say something in Spanish–I text or email a native speaker for immediate clarification.

I use cell phones sporadically in class. For a warm-up I’ll post a question on Poll Everywhere that students answer as they come in. A couple of weeks ago I posted the survey on Twitter where other teachers and Spanish speakers respond, which created several authentic models for students to see.

I know that there is a clear divide between those of us who prohibit cell phones in class and others who embrace them. Part of my job as a parent and teacher is overtly teaching when and how to use cell phones for good. I currently have an extra credit assignment posted on my wiki (inspired by Sherry Amorocho) that encourages students to use the camera in their cell phone (or a digital camera) to photograph vocabulary words. I can’t wait to see how many take me up on the offer.

By the way, if you’re in the Loveland area next month, don’t miss Learning 2.0: A Colorado Conversation where Noah Geisel will be leading a session on Cell Phone Solutions.

For my Spanish 3 IB class I have created a theme around social issues, including immigration. In Spanish 2, students watch the film La misma luna and and answer questions related to it. The movie is also a good starting point for a discussion surrounding immigration and the issues that face people who leave their homeland. I think that the IB class is a good place to further explore the human side of this topic. They’re mature enough and open to discussing controversial this more than my other classes may be.

I introduce the topic with the short film Schwarzfahrer (literally “Black Rider” but also the term for someone riding without a ticket). Even though it is in German, it is a great vehicle for discussion. Students discuss (in Spanish) the use of black and white film, the year the film was made and its relevance today, who the Schwarzfahrer is, the various people and their reactions (or lack thereof) on the bus. I love hearing the students analyze the film. They notice things that I don’t and ask great questions.

After discussing the film, we listen to the song “Mojado” by Ricardo Arjona. (I usually have to fight tears in the opening verse because the lyrics and music are so heartbreaking.) Again, I have a series of questions designed to promote conversation–what do certain phrases imply, why does he refer to “Neptuno,” etc. We also work on new vocabulary that I take from the song.

The last piece that I bring in is the chapter from Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street called “Geraldo No Last Name” or “Geraldo sin apellido” in Spanish version. To introduce the literature, I show a photo from 9/11 of victims’ shoes lined up along the street to discuss the uncounted victims of that day. Students may not realize that many people who were killed in the attacks were undocumented workers and therefore uncounted in the death totals. I tie this in with the chapter about Geraldo, who has no papers and dies in an accident. I use a good-old KWL sheet to generate questions surrounding Geraldo’s life and have several of my own questions.

To wrap up the unit, students are going to design a project related to a social issue. In the past I asked them to find a  song that spoke to them related to an issue. I want them to be more creative this year and produce something of their own.

Over the past few years I have implemented project-based assessments in every level of Spanish that I teach. I think that I have come up with some great ideas, but after reading Apple’s Challenge Based Learning white paper and working through three days of IB MYP training I need to work on being more systematic in presenting the project. To use a colleague’s words, I need to unpack the assignment before I hand it to my students. When I have laid out the steps for my students, they have been more confident in their approach and successful in producing their final product.

Over the past week I have been revising old project-based assessments that my colleagues and I will assign this year. I prefer these types assessments to traditional exams for a number of reasons. One, they are authentic by design. Students may one day have a job where they have to create a multi-media presentation on a given topic. One project that I have planned for September involves students creating a presentation about a Spanish-speaking country. Their presentation can take any form that the students see fit. Their audience is potential study abroad candidates. Students will brainstorm, collaborate, create and share their ideas and projects.

Another benefit of project-based assessments is that students have the unique opportunity to take what they know and love, whether it’s music, technology, or art, meld it with what they are acquiring in Spanish class and then produce an authentic product. I love to see kids shine and project-based assessments afford them this chance.

Click to read my Don Quixote assignment and hear an amazing project from one of my students from last spring.

Flickr Photos

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