Monday, January 14, 2013

Pattern Project

Today my kids handed in a project that they totally rocked.  The entire project was made possible by Fawn's awesome new website visualpatterns.org.  I had already decided to introduce the idea of linear relationships through patterns and was starting to plan this unit over winter break when she posted about her new site.  It seriously could not have been more perfectly timed.

So last week I had kids work through a station activity on patterns.  I collected and gave feedback on that activity to ensure that they knew what they were doing.  The next day I introduced the project.

They were to go onto visualpatterns and choose any four patterns they liked.  I pulled up the website and gave them a very little bit of direction on what may be good types of ones to choose, but ultimately it was entirely their call.

Their task was to choose two linear and two non-linear.  This in itself meant they had to be able to identify a linear pattern.

For each pattern they chose they needed to:


·      Include a picture of the original pattern.  This can be printed, drawn, created, etc.
·      Show the next two steps of the pattern.
·      Explain in writing how the pattern is changing.  You may include math (numbers, symbols, operations, etc) as well, but make sure that your answer is easy to follow for someone unfamiliar with the task.
·      Create a table of values for the pattern.
·      Create a graph.
·      Tell whether your pattern is linear or not.  Give reason to back this up.
·      For the two linear patterns: Tell the equation.
·      BONUS: give the equations for the two non-linear patterns.
·      Display all of your information in a neat, clear, professional, easy to read format.
[note: no lined paper]

This is my algebra 1 class and we had barely started really writing equations so I didn't want to put too much focus on the equation part.  Instead, I wanted to make sure they REALLY know what it means to be linear.

This is the instruction sheet and rubric I handed out.


I will fill out four of the first rubrics per kid (one for each pattern) and then one of the overall ones.  I printed them out two to a side so 4 rubrics is only one sheet of paper.  I know it looks crazy involved, but it's actually really simple.  I like things to be as clear as possible so it makes it really easy for me to grade.

The set of rubrics for each kid

As far as the part for "Overall Project & Format" I told my kids that I wanted creativity.  Now I don't think anything is wrong with a project that neatly and correctly on simple white paper or on graph paper or something.  I made it so that a simple project can get a max of a 95 (which is awesome) but to get that extra 5 points I told them I wanted to be wowed.

I actually did have some rationale behind this.  I am NOT the type of person that wants work to be pretty if there is not educational reason behind it.  I'm teaching math, not art.  I am certainly not giving out points for things to just look pretty.

Since we are dealing with patterns I thought that physically building models could really help to solidify the meaning of a constant rate of change.  Let's say they were building a linear pattern with toothpicks that consistently increased by 2.  Each time they build a new figure they would physically have to reach for two extra toothpicks.  Or for one that increases more exponentially, they would find themselves needed more and more additional ones each time.  

After explaining the whole thing I actually had kids that said it looked fun.  I've been excited all week to see what they came up with today and was actually holding off on posting on this project because I had a good feeling that they would hand in things that I was going to want to share.  

Well they totally rocked it.  They were actually excited to show off their projects to one another this morning.  It was so cool.  I got a couple that opted for graph paper and did everything they needed to, but the majority of them certainly went above and beyond and built some very cool things.  

I have to put this one first because this girl has way more imagination than I ever will.  She turned it into an adorable story.  Never in a million years would this ever have crossed my mind and I love it.  You need to check out what she wrote at the top of each page.  Enlarge the pictures if you need to, trust me it's worth it.















Aren't they awesome??!  I've still yet to grade them, so I'm sure there are mistakes here and there but overall it seems that they did a very good job with linear/non-linear and identifying the patterns which was my goal.  I am thrilled.  It's also worth mentioning that these were really entirely independent.  I was actually expecting more questions and I got barely any.  After I introduced it, there was virtually no talk about it and today they came in done (most of them anyway).

Now the only issue is finding where in my room to display these.  They are way too good not to show off!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thrifting & Crafting

This weekend I took a trip to a local thrift store that a couple kids suggested I check out.  Somehow we got onto the topic of projects and I was telling them about this cute little yardstick box I'd like to make/have them make me.  All I have is brand new yardsticks that say Home Depot all over them though.  Hence the thrift store recommendation.

source

Isn't that such a cute little box? I realllly want to make it. Unfortunately I found no yardsticks, but I'm  going to keep looking. However, I did find a bunch of other stuff that I've been having fun crafting with all weekend.

These guys will all be making my desk a little bit more cheerful.  I'm not sure which I'm most excited about.


The thing on the left was a magnetic picture frame.  It had a piece of clear acrylic with magnets that stuck to the front of it to put a picture under that I got rid of because it was scratched up.  I spray painted the whole thing (front and back) with gold spray paint and then taped off the back and used chalkboard spray paint on the front.  Simple and now it's a cute little magnetic chalkboard to sit on my desk so I don't have to use a million little pieces of paper to leave myself reminders.


In the back is just a little wood bowl that I sprayed gold.  I was on a gold kick because I also found a big ceramic seashell that I sprayed gold to match in my room.


On the right I took three clear vases and used white enamel paint on the inside.  Really simply too...I just poured in the paint, swirled it around and then flipped them over to dry.  Then I was at Home Depot today for some paint and came across those adorable little succulents.  Each one was only a couple dollars.  They make me happy and I can't wait to put them on my desk tomorrow.  I just hope I don't kill them.



Saturday, January 12, 2013

Apartment Remodel Project

Some people asked for some more information on this project so here goes...

First of all, it has been SO fun this year.

Project started by telling the kids that were all the proud new owners of their very own apartment.  I told them that they were such a great deal that everyone bought one in the same complex, hence the identical layouts.  Since they were such great deals though, they are in need of some serious work and we are starting with the flooring.

I wish I had the file of this, but all I have is the paper copy (and no scanner)

On the first day I had them do all the rectangular rooms since they were pretty simple.  They were given 1/4" graph paper and had to draw out each room to scale, where each box represents a foot.  For some rooms like the dining room the measurements were both there so it was no problem.  For ones like the living room though they had to use some logic to find missing measurements.  I purposely left off some of the measurements so they would have to think.


The next day I started the foyer with them. We went through that they could find the area by expanding it into a square and then subtracting out the corner triangle, leaving us with the area of just the foyer.  As they are doing their work, I am really stressing that they have to show me all of their calculations.  I want to know where all of the numbers are coming from.

Something that I love is that they are all doing their work different ways.  The student above liked the subtraction method of finding irregular area, but there are tons that are cutting up rooms and adding the areas together too (especially for the rectangular like rooms) and the majority of kids are using a combination of the two methods.

Something that really helped a lot this year was using floorplanner.com to create a 3D model of the apartment.  I can't even take credit for it because the push for a 3D model was all the kids.  Sure it had crossed my mind before, but just I never took it to that level.  I totally should have because it really helped them to visualize things I was talking about.  Some of the kids actually suggested that we use The Sims game to draw models so they could put in their designs.  I would absolutely love to do this.

Floorplanner.com was pretty easy to use and free.  I created the design in 2D, adding the furniture and flooring styles.  When the kids make a particularly funny design decision I will put it up to check out how it looks.


Then we could look at it in 3D.  In this mode you can spin it around, zoom in and out, and really get a good feel for the layout and rooms.


I have been leaving the 3D model up on the board all period as they work so the kids can refer to it as needed.  They are also welcome to use my computer to move it around or do whatever they want to it.

The last part is the cost.  I took many many trips to many different Home Depots and collected a substantial collection of free samples.


The kids got a huge kick out of it and are having a ball making fun of me.  They are standing firm that they don't think there's any way that was all free.  Every time someone comes into the room the kids can't wait to tell them that I've been stealing from Home Depot.  They are too funny.

After the first day I got complaints that there were not enough tile samples.  There were actually none because they weren't free.  Eventually I gave in and picked up a collection of some single tiles.  It was like $20 total which isn't bad because they were relieved to finally have some tile options (who are these kids?!).  Also they don't think I actually paid for them.


In addition to their graph paper work, they will hand this cost breakdown sheet to me.  They will give the area of each room, type and cost of flooring in each room, and the total cost for each room.  Then they will calculate the total area and total cost including tax.


My favorite parts of this project this year have been the conversations it has sparked.  I had a ton of kids look at the floor plan and immediately start discussing which walls they would take down and how they would want to combine rooms.  I have three kids that are all planning to live together since there are three bedrooms so they are discussing all of their flooring choices and making group decisions.

I have some kids that are just being silly and coming up with the most ridiculous choices which is really funny.

I walked into a conversation the other day between two boys about which type of tile to put in the kitchen.  One kid was telling the other that it was going to be dependent on what color cabinets he was planning to use, because white cabinets would go well with one while dark cabinets would go better with the other.

On more than one occasion we have tuned to Pinterest during class for inspiration.

One kid really wanted red carpet so I told him I'd go back to Home Depot (yet again) that night to find him some red options.

One kid was joking around and being insistent that I needed to find him diamond flooring while I was there.  Well clearly Home Depot doesn't have that, but I did find this article for him.  It is about diamond studded tiles that are $1 million per square meter.  He loved it and ended up using it for some of his rooms.  I loved when he came to me and asked me how to change square meters into square feet. It ended up a little over $92,600 per square foot.  He put it into his master bedroom, master bath, regular bathroom and hallway.  Love.

If I have the time, ideally I'd like to take a picture of their samples together and have them take turns putting their ideas into the 3D model.  I would print the pictures so that their finished project would include a cost sheet, scale drawing with their work, photograph of their color scheme, and a printout of their 3D apartment.

These are a couple of the pictures I started taking.  Tell me you don't love the pink + turf + faux tile vinyl in the bottom left picture.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Some fun stuff

Today was a fun day.  There was tons of stuff going on.

First period was our first SBG quiz.  The kids seem pretty into the whole idea and the results were ok I think.

Next period I took a couple girls to do some extra work and they showed up with coffee for me.  Uhh... love them!  They didn't know how I liked it, so they also brought a cup of milk, sugar packets and stirrers.  They clearly know the way to my heart.

It was also the official start of my floor plan project and my pattern project and both were super fun.

While today was the first official day, my kids have been looking through the samples for a couple days and it's been really funny.  I feel like I've been to Home Depot about a million times now to get more and more samples that they keep requesting.  I could totally say no and tell them to work with what we've got, but I think it's fun that they're getting into it so I don't mind.  The people at Home Depot though might think I'm completely crazy.

The first day I was sent to get samples of Brazilian Cherry hardwood.  Today I was sent to get red carpet (because that's what teenage boys dream of apparently) and a better choice for bathroom flooring.  I asked the girl what she meant and she didn't know..just the kind of stuff that goes in bathrooms.  There was no tile samples however (which is why I didn't have any to start with) so I spent about $20 and picked up a bunch of single tiles, all of which are returnable.

Every time I do this project, I forget how much I love it.  And I love it about a million times more with the actual samples because my kids are hilarious.  One boy is going with a combination of pink shag carpeting, green outdoor turf, and a tile look alike vinyl which is just so funny.  Another one is going with wall to wall faux wood vinyl in every single room.  He commented that he wants it to be durable in case he throws up on the floor.  He has also stated he wants it on the walls and ceiling too.  Some are putting carpeting in the bathroom.  Brown carpeting.  They're so weird and I think it's just so ridiculously funny.

At one point I overheard a couple boys adamantly telling a girl that she should absolutely not put carpeting in the dining room.  She is standing firm though and going with the carpeting.  Others are being more thoughtful and putting together really nice looking combos.  I just love that they're having fun.

I started taking pictures of them today with their samples to include as part of their project because them sitting their with their little mood boards was just too funny to pass up.  Some of them also spent a good amount of time doing what looked like quality testing on the different samples to help make their choices.  One told me that he was doing "intimate quality testing" whatever that means.  I told him that was creepy.

In another class I introduced my pattern project based off of visualpatterns.org and it actually went way better than I had imagined.  I'll post more details later, but part of it involves choosing a pattern and extending it.  I created a rubric where an "average" project (think like drawn on a piece of poster paper) will get them at most a 95 which is a great grade.  I told them to get that possible 100 though they're going to have to get more creative.  I have kids that are planning find a good toothpick pattern so that they can actually recreate it using toothpicks.  Others really want to use 3D patterns so they can build them out of blocks.  I showed them the Fawn's website during class and they actually got excited about it which was really cool.

I also decided to leave it really open ended on how they can put it all together.  I gave them some ideas like powerpoint, prezi, glogster, actual physical creation, or whatever else they can dream up.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what they come up with...one girl was talking about some kind of performance as her presentation which could be really interesting.  It's due next Monday so I'll be sharing what they come up with for sure, as well as the specifics of the project.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Patterns

When I taught pre-algebra, we introduced linear relationships in the context of patterns and I always felt that kids got a good handle on the idea of what it meant to be linear.  Writing down the definition does not really help the kids understand completely what it means to have a constant rate of change.  Extending a pattern, making a chart, and seeing a graph does a better job.

On Friday I did a station activity with my algebra 1 class.  As I was setting up the stations, some of them said how much they love doing station lessons.  Cool.

We did one quick one together as an example of what I was looking for. Then they worked with four different patterns, each at its own station:





Note: These patterns are all taken from CMP2 (what I used to teach pre-algebra)

As they moved around, kids filled out one of these for each pattern.  Since they were creating a graph, I printed them on graph paper.  Also because I'm slightly obsessed with printing on graph paper.

very sorry for the terrible picture here

Each station seemed to need about 7ish minutes. Some kids didn't get to finish each one so they are finishing them up for homework. I told them that as long as they had the next two figures drawn and the table created, they could do the rest at home. Just in case though, I gave each one a copy of the patterns as they left.  In hindsight, I could have just posted the patterns on the website instead of printing a sheet for each kid but I didn't think of that until they were almost all printed.  Oh well.

Files here:



On Monday I plan to introduce a pattern project they'll be starting using Fawn's visualpatterns.org so stay tuned.  Monday is also my first SBG quiz with these kids so I'm looking forward to seeing how that goes too.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Doing Less

One major area I want to work on is getting kids to think more on their own.  Instead of teaching them a skill and then giving an activity to practice the skill, I've been trying to move more in the direction of giving them the task first and then giving them the skills as they work through it.  I feel like this is more realistic.  It's a real struggle with some of the kids though because it's not what they're used to.

So as an introduction to an upcoming project I planned to have them find the cost to put new flooring in the classroom.

I started on Wednesday with a small task on unit conversions.  We discussed feet vs yards and square feet vs square yards and used some proportions to convert some measurements.


The next day they were going to work on the classroom task.  I started to create the activity and was going to make something that would guide them through it. Tell them to draw a diagram, space to fill in the area of the room, space to do the work to calculate the cost, etc.  I rethought it though and scaled way back.  The task is a fairly simple one though and I wanted them to have to think more and problem solve.

So instead, I gave them two things.

1) The task
Very simply stated.  I told them what we were going to be doing and had them think about what we would need to be able to figure it out.  For each thing that they said they needed to know, they had to write how they could get that information.


They did well on this and I really enjoyed watching them have to think and problem solve.  Even kids that are fairly low knew that they would need the measurements of the room.  Just for fun I then had them text their answers to polleverywhere.com to collect what they wrote.

2) The supplies
Once they decided that they would need to know the area of the room and the cost of the flooring, I gave them this:

rulers, yardsticks, tape measures, and four different flooring samples

and said go.

For the most part the kids had fun measuring.  Some of the kids that work with work with measuring often took charge and made the other kids their assistants.

A couple things to note:

  • The tape measures are 25' long and the room is longer, so they weren't really that helpful
  • Each tile in my room is a square foot so really all they had to do was count tiles and use a ruler to measure the partial tiles
I didn't tell them either of these things though, I let them figure it out.  Initially someone in each period ran for the tape measure thinking that was going to be the easiest only to realize it wasn't all that useful.  Some kids started to measure in inches and I did suggest to them that feet would probably be good to use.

Once they found the area in square feet they picked from one of the four flooring samples I put out. They really got a kick out of the actual samples. Originally I was going to have them calculate all four costs, but instead just told them they could choose whatever they wanted.  Some of them said they were going to go high end and did the most expensive hardwood while others said they were broke so they were went with the hardwood lookalike vinyl.  It's fun for me when they have fun.

Now to make things slightly trickier for them I gave all prices in square yards.  I loved that almost all of my kids picked up on that and realized they were going to have to do some conversion at that point.  I was actually shocked that almost none of them complained to me about the price being in square yards or asked me what to do.  They just looked at it and did what they needed to do as if it was no big deal.

What was even cooler (to me) though was that some kids divided their area by 9 to turn the area into square yards while others divided the cost by 9 to turn the price into square feet.  Clearly both work and I loved that by leaving little direction on the task, they were able to solve the problem in whatever way made sense to them.

One girl solved the whole thing herself with no help from me or anyone else and was SO proud of herself.  She said she couldn't wait to go home and tell her mom and grandma.  Seriously, how adorable is that?

After finishing their work and having me check it, they started work on the next part.


The focus on this part is in the explanation and showing work.  When practicing open ended writing I like to try (at least in the beginning) on keeping the task fairly unintimidating.  The measurements are the same as the classroom so they weren't immediately scared off because they knew what they were doing.  The two prices are different from the ones they used in class though so the answer is not exactly the same and this one includes the extra twist that one price is in square feet and one is in square yards.

As far as doing the math, the kids did fantastic.  I was driving them nuts though because I was insistant upon good explanations.  A page full of calculations was not enough.  They needed words so they would keep trying to hand it in and I'd send them back to keep working.  It was pretty interesting because some kids that I have that are usually at the top of the class struggled big time with their answer because they aren't used to explaining.  Others that usually struggle did a phenomenal job because it was a task that they were comfortable and familiar with.

I also wish I had a picture, but on Friday I had a couple kids that still couldn't fully grasp the idea of converting between square feet and yards so I took masking tape and taped off a square yard in the classroom so that they could physically see the 9 square feet (tiles) in there.  So when they were confused I made them go look at the square yard to help understand the 9.  One kid told me that he really likes my class because of stuff like that.  He said that most teachers would have just told them to use 9 and then made them do it.  

So overall my experiment in giving them less worked out well.  The trick with doing less though is to make sure to provide them with very strategic framework.  By now I know my students very well so I have a very good handle on how much help to give each kid and how much to make them do on their own.  It's a very delicate balance though, because giving a kid a task and just telling them to do it on their own has the potential to really frustrate some kids to the point of shutting down and giving up. So I think the challenge is to create tasks that give kids the freedom to think on their own but to also be prepared to provide enough support for the kids that need it while also keeping them challenged.

As a sidenote: I'm pretty sure my kids think I'm crazy for how many of the flooring free samples I took. They don't believe me that they were free.  Especially since I told them that I made like 3 different Home Depot trips and filled up my purse each time.  Seeing how into the samples they are, I think it was all totally worth it.  One kid wasn't quite happy with the hardwood selection though and requested Brazilian Cherry so of course I had to go back to get that for him. I think it's cute that he was that into the task to even care that much.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Remodel

Sometimes I swear it's amazing that I don't get asked to leave stores.  "I'm a teacher" seems to be enough of an explanation to explain my strange behavior.

This week I plan to have a couple of my classes start work on a unit involving geometry with some other stuff mixed in.  The project they're going to work on is one of my favorites that I've ever come up with.  I think I actually did this one my first or second year and it has continued to evolve since then.

The idea is fairly simple, take an apartment floorplan and calculate the cost to install new flooring.  When I created the project it was important to me that everything was as realistic as possible.  Actually this is always important to me.  So I created a price list that included the actual cost for various carpets, hardwoods and tiles.  The kids have always gotten fairly into the project.  Apparently they enjoy getting to play interior designer as much as I do.

When I started the project (teaching 7th grade), the rooms were fairly simple.  They were all rectangles. A couple years later I made it more challenging and created a more complex layout that involved many more irregular shapes, made up of various rectangles and triangles.  This year I decided to add more so that it will require using the Pythagorean Theorem as well.

One page from an awesome one that a kid did a couple years ago.

The other new addition that is going to make it way more awesome is this:


I went to Home Depot to check out if maybe they had a brochure or price list or something because I was thinking it was time to update the old one and make it even more realistic.  The prices were all real on what I had created, but it was clear that it wasn't a store brochure or anything.  I was also thinking about maybe asking for any old samples they might have.

Well consider my surprise when I found out that they had free samples of EVERYTHING.  That I could just take.  For free.  I didn't even know where to start.

This is part of the vinyl section with the samples underneath.

Some of the Martha Stewart carpet samples

Very quickly I had filled my bag and had way more than I could carry so I picked up some plastic storage containers and walked around filling them.


I also grabbed (and opened) a pack of Sharpies so that I could write the price on the back of each one.


I think they're going to really get a kick out of all the different samples.  Especially comparing the different hardwoods and laminates or the different types of carpeting.  When able to actually hold the samples, it's pretty easy to see how the prices vary based on the quality of each.

I've never done it, but every time I do this project it always crosses my mind to have them set some sort of budget and they try to do the project while staying in budget.  This time I think I'll have them make a rough estimate of how much it would cost.

This year I also plan to have them calculate the cost to paint all of the walls too.

So although it may not seem like that complicated of an idea, some of the things that I've worked into the project are

  • converting rates
  • using ratios & proportions
  • the Pythagorean theorem
  • scale factors and scale drawings
  • irregular area
  • surface area
  • perimeter
  • percent change

I like this project because the kids usually get fairly into it and it's a real life task.  Although my 7th graders weren't going to be flipping any houses soon or anything, I thought maybe it would be something they'd do at some point.  And they really enjoyed it.

This year though I'm even more excited.  I teach at a vocational school so for some my students something like this is something that is similar to actual things they might be doing.  This is the kind of stuff that my kids are so talented with so I think they might really run with it.  For them I think it's also especially important that I work as hard as possible to make things realistic because they will know if it's not and won't take me seriously.

I got a good amount of vinyls, laminates, hardwoods and carpets in varying quality and prices.  I really also want to include tiles, but they didn't seem to have free samples of those so I'll have to keep looking around.  


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Teacher Story: Part 2

The first school I taught at was in an affluent area.  We had access to a good amount of supplies and technology and resources.  For the most part, parents were supportive.  My students were well cared for, well dressed, and lived in very nice houses.  Of course there were exceptions, but they were certainly that- the exception.  I received tons of Christmas gifts.  I received tons of end of the year gifts.  We went on fantastic trips.  The majority of my kids were fairly motivated.  Parents hired me to do private tutoring when their kids needed extra help.  I thought it was just wonderful there.

Sounds great right?  Well then I must sound crazy in saying that I don't think I'd ever want to go back to a school like this.

Of course I didn't know that yet.  After a couple years, life happened and I ended up moving to a different school.  At the time I had a choice between a high school position and a middle school position.  The middle school position was more in my comfort zone so I went with that.

This school was a much different place.  Kids were coming from a much different background.  They weren't really motivated.  They struggled with a lot of things.  They had many family problems.  There were tons of behavior issues.  My classes were way more diverse.  I had a couple of kids that pretty much spoke no english whatsoever.  For the first couple years there I started to find my stride more as a teacher and became more comfortable.  I still wasn't that great at connecting with the kids though.

After being there for a couple years I got the most challenging group of kids I'd ever had.  They made my life a living hell and made me cry on more than one occasion.  Then they changed my life.  They taught me how to interact with kids.  They taught me what they needed and how to earn their respect.  Some of them taught me that all they needed was for someone to really give them a chance.  They taught me that a good teacher seriously has the power to change a kid's life.  I don't even know how to truly express the weight of that realization.  It took me five years of teaching to really find a good reason for why I am a teacher.

Those kids also made me realize that I wanted to do something different.  A "traditional" school wasn't quite for me.  I wanted to be in a place where I could make even more of a difference.  With even more of those "at risk" kids were.  The idea of high school was appealing to me because I liked the potential to make connections with kids that lasted longer than just a year.  I wanted to be able to check up on them next year and hear that things are going well or be able to help them out if not.  I was getting frustrated with sending my 8th graders off to high school only to hear that they were failing again or that none of their teachers cared like I did (I heard that one numerous times and it killed me).  So while I still do love middle school kids, I just think that high school where I should be right now.

So now I am here.  I teach special needs high school kids at a vocational school and absolutely love it. Nowhere even close to what I had planned.  I don't go on fancy trips or get showered with gifts at Christmas, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Instead they build me ridiculously amazing furniture or stick up for me when they overhear kids saying that I'm mean.  They make me feel very loved.  Instead of fancy trips, we take trips to help hurricane victims or to volunteer at the soup kitchen.  This year a kid called me an angel because I took some time to help him fix up his notebook.  Sometimes I celebrate a D, because at least it's passing.  When I spend my free time helping them out they realize it and I feel like they really appreciate it.  They tell me that they do more for me than anyone else.  My kids might not all be headed for college, but they are skilled enough to be able to build me a house and that is simply amazing.

My kids have talked with me about their lives and some of them have experienced true horrors beyond what I could have even imagined.  Five or ten years ago I would have never been able to handle conversations like that.  I think they really just want someone to listen, and they tell me these things in hopes that I'll understand them a little bit better.  And I do.  I know they don't want pity, but sometimes I come home and cry for them because it is so sad what they have to deal with.  But the fact that they feel comfortable enough to confide in me makes me feel like I'm making a difference somehow.  When they are having a bad day or frustrated with something that happened or angry with another teacher my room is often where they come.

Almost every step that I've taken and move that I've made has been not even close to what I had planned.  And here I am, entirely and completely "out of my comfort zone" and yet completely comfortable.

So in the spirit of the new year, maybe go try something that is terrifying.  You never know...it could be a disaster, or it could be the best thing to ever happen.  It's at least worth a shot.