July 31, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday: More YA Dystopia, Children's Lit, + a Linky!

I decided to go out on a limb and make this series into a link up too!  I don't know if anyone else would be interested in joining in the What I'm Reading Wednesday fun, but I thought I would give it a shot!  I know I would love to check out what others are reading, so if you feel like writing a quick post about your reads of the week, I hope you will consider linking up!

Last week, I posted about a decent YA dystopia book I'd finished, The Adoration of Jenna Fox.  In my review, I complained about the lame ending, the book's biggest downfall.  I did continue the trilogy, only because my friend urged me to, and I'm so glad I kept with it.  I thought each book got better as it went along!  I'm not going to share summaries or specific reviews of books #2 & #3, don't want any spoilers, especially for anyone who hasn't read book 1!
I will say, though, that these books are both more of companion novels than sequels, at least when compared with book 1.  They have a different narrator and take the story that begins in Jenna Fox, including its ethical questions, in a new direction.  They also introduce some other issues into the mix, issues like classism, poverty, and prejudice that, no matter how many centuries have passed, continue to plague society.  Book 3, Fox Forever, was definitely my favorite. The story was fast paced, and I loved the characters.  Definitely recommend this series to anyone who loves a good teen dystopian read!

4/5 stars for both The Fox Inheritance and Fox Forever

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

Summary:  It is 1943, and 11-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is traveling west on a train to live with her scientist father—but no one, not her father nor the military guardians who accompany her, will tell her exactly where he is. When she reaches Los Alamos, New Mexico, she learns why: he's working on a top secret government program. Over the next few years, Dewey gets to know eminent scientists, starts tinkering with her own mechanical projects, becomes friends with a budding artist who is as much of a misfit as she is—and, all the while, has no idea how the Manhattan Project is about to change the world. This book's fresh prose and fascinating subject are like nothing you've read before.

My thoughts:  This book was wonderful.  As usual, it was recommended to me by a friend and I jumped in without reading the back, so I had no idea what it was about when I started.  Almost immediately when they started talking about physicists and chemists working on a "secret project," I thought, "Omg, they're working on the bomb!"  Yes, had I read the description, I'd have already known that. :)  Anywyas, that immediately hooked me.  Dewey and Suze were such wonderful, special, real characters.  This book made me laugh out loud and gasp in surprise.  Mostly, it was just a beautiful read.  

What I liked most about Green Glass Sea was this: In undergrad, I was an English Lit minor.  For one of my big projects in a class on Literary Theory, I wrote about children's literature and how the best children's books are those that force children to ask questions; those that describe controversial topics in a way that doesn't slam the author's opinions onto the child, but that encourage the child to form their own opinions.  This is one of those books.  Ellen Klages does an amazing job of telling the story from the perspective of children living on an army base who have no idea what's going on, but are trying to make sense of things the best they can.  At the end of the book, one adult character begins questioning whether building "the gadget" as it's referred to was the right choice--"at what cost?" she remarks.  As a read aloud or class novel, this would be a perfect opportnuity to open the conversation about the ethics of The Manhattan Project and war in general.  I would recommend this book to any kids 4th grade and up, but it would be a fabulous class read for any grade learning about World War II.

4.5/5 stars

Schooled by Gordon Korman
SummaryCapricorn Anderson had never watched a television show before. He'd never tasted a pizza. He had never even heard of a wedgie. And he had never, in his wildest dreams, thought of living anywhere but Garland Farm commune with his hippie caretaker, Rain.
Capricorn (Cap for short) had lived every day of his life on Garland Farm growing fruits and vegetables. He was homeschooled by Rain, the only person he knew in the world. Life was simple for Cap. But when Rain falls out of a tree while picking plums and is hospital-ridden, he has to attend the local middle school and live with his new guidance counselor and her irritable daughter. While Cap knew a lot about Zen Buddhism, no amount formal education could ready him for the trials and tribulations of public middle school.
Cap doesn't exactly fit in at Claverage Middle School (dubbed C Average by the kids). He has long, ungroomed hair, wears hemp clothes, and practices Tai Chi out on the lawn. His weirdness basically makes him biggest nerd in school. This is great news for Zach Powers, big man on campus. He can't wait to instate the age-old tradition in C-Average School: The biggest nerd is nominated for class president—and wins. So when Cap becomes president, he is more puzzled than ever. But as Cap begins to take on his duties, the joke starts to turn on Zach.
Will Cap turn out to be the greatest President in the history of C-Average School? Or the biggest punchline?

My Thoughts: As a vegetarian, peace-lovin', tree-huggin', flower-child-wanna-be, I think I knew I would love this book as soon as I saw its cover.  I actually started it  LONG time ago, but got distracted, set it in a stack of books, and forgot about it.  I'm SO GLAD I came across it again over the weekend!  I absolutely love the premise of this book--a sheltered hippie pre-teen being plunged into middle school for the first time?!  What's not to love.  Cap is a seriously awesome character.  He is the definition of 100, % pure innocence, from never having touched money to not understanding basic laws muchless ANY of the teasing he encounters at school.  I was intially kind of reminded of Stargirl, actually--Cap is jutst as odd as her.  Whereas Stargirl was serious and heart-wrenching at times, Schooled is saturated in humor--I found myself laughing out loud on multiple occassions while reading!  Overall, this book was a blast to read and was chock full of awesome themes like acceptance, friendship, and change.  Totally recommend!

4.5/5 stars

Cover art and italicized summaries are courtesy of goodreads.com

July 30, 2013

Training Tuesday: 12 Miles = One hungry runner!

7 weeks of marathon training down, $2,203 raised for Autism Speaks, and many miles run!  Woo!  This week I actually managed to get all my weekday runs in!  I have always run three days a week in the past, but this training plan calls for four days a week.  I was initially nervous my lame ass legs wouldn't be able to handle the extra day, but it's been going great!  You know you're training for a marathon when you're in bed, in running clothes, with taped up IT bands at 9:30pm Friday night...
Yep, I sleep in my running clothes.  And I tape those ITBs the night before--it helps the tape stick waaaay better.  Oh, and you know you're a TEACHER marathoner when you're in bed at 9:30 reading a children's book!  

My little pace group joked about how we think we should get a medal for every distance we run from now on because, honestly, come on, we've earned it. And who doesn't love a good medal? :)  This week we made it through a long run of 12 miles together.  I woke up Saturday morning pre-run to sub-60 degree weather--WHAT?!?  Shut the front door, crazy Chicago weather!  I even busted out my arm warmers and word them for the first few chilly miles!  This run went really well, although I am having some issues with the arch on my left foot--tight tight tight!  I think it is just that I have been running in a new pair of shoes--same make and model as my old ones, but I think they really feel best after they have at least 50 miles on them.  Today I tried out a new pair of running shorts: 
These are Nike Pro shorts that I bought to wear under my Team Sparkle skirt at next week's half marathon.  I am a loyal Nike Tempo shorts girl, so I was a little reluctant to try these guys--I was worried the elastic waist would give me some muffin top action and that the legs would ride up.  However, I was pleasantly surprised!  The waistband was SUPER comfy and the shorts didn't move around at all.  I still think the Tempo shorts are more comfortable--love the free and liberating feeling :).  But, I will definitely run in these guys from time to time. 

After the long run, I hit up, you guessed it, Jimmy Johns.  Cannot get enough veggie subs and salt and vinegar chips these days!  The great thing about running longer on Saturdays is that I no longer have to wait for Jimmy Johns to open after I finish running--it's already after 10 by the time I'm home!  Woohoo! 
(Oh, and don't worry, I also proceeded to eat an entire box of macaroni and cheese later that day all by my hungry self...glad I am able to cancel out every calorie burned during training with food. consumed post-run.. :)

How is your summer training going?

July 29, 2013

Management Monday: The Clip Chart! (+ my first linky!)

After writing Management Monday posts the past couple of weeks, Carrie at Being Ladylike suggested I make the series into a weekly linky party.  I am new to the link up game, but I figured I'll give it a shot!  If you are interested in sharing your management ideas, I hope you will link your posts below!

First, I have to say that I in NO WAY take credit for the clip chart.  It was not my idea, and I got my start with it thanks to many other teacher bloggers, especially Raye at The Caffeinated Teacher who assured me it was a great system for big kiddos as well as little kiddos.  Many of the ideas you will read about in this post are based on the ideas of Rick Morris, whose description of the clip chart and whose ebook describing its implementation totally got me on board with the whole system.   I've written about it in the past here and here, but with school ready to start up in a few weeks, I figured it was worth describing again!  Like I said, while most of these ideas are not my own--I'm sharing them here because they have worked so well in my classroom, and I want to spread the word! 

First Day Introduction
On the first day of school, I introduce the clip chart with a super positive spin.  I describe to students how every day when we enter the classroom, we are "Ready to Learn."  Each day is a fresh start; we are all beginning in the same place.  I tell them that it's completely up to them where they end the day.  We all make choices during every day that determine what kind of day we will have.  We also all make mistakes.  I ask the kids if they've ever made a mistake that they wish they hadn't.  I ask them if they think their whole day should be ruined because of one mistake.  They always say "No!"--that's the beauty of the clip chart.  I tell them that their day is NEVER ruined!  Even if they make a mistake, they can make a different choice and move on with their day!  I "challenge" the students to set a goal for where they would like to see their clip at the end of the day.  I have them visualize moving it up to their goal color.  Then, I have them think or talk to a neighbor about what choices they will make to move their clip there.  It's super positive and gets the kids excited about the clip chart.  I also have the kids come up and place their clip on green to give them ownership over it.

Day to Day Management
During the school day, I tell students "Clip Up" or "Clip Down" based on their behavior.  I often use a hand gesture that I read about in the clip chart ebook linked to above--a scissors motion with my index and midle finger, followed by a thumb up or down indicating the direction the kiddo needs to move his or her clip.  I try to make sure I am clipping up A LOT, especially at the beginning of the year.  Like any management system, the kids need to buy into it, and feeling successful is a huge part of it.  
I also let kids continue "clipping up" even after they make it to pink (the top level)--they can move to the very top of the chart, followed by moving "off the chart."  This is a personal favorite of mine; the kids bring their clip to me and I clip it onto my shirt.  They love it!

What Makes it Special
At the end of the day, we celebrate studetns who have made it to "Outstanding," aka the top of the chart.  These studetns get a PBIS ticket, a "Super Star" award, and a sticker on their clip.  When clips have 5 stickers on them, they get swapped out for a special colored clip starting with red, the bottom color on the chart and moving all the way up through all the colors, then silver, gold, and "jeweled." :)

Why I Will Never Use Another System
One of the initial reasons I was reluctant to use the Clip Chart was because I wasn't sure I wanted behavior management to be something so visible to the whole class.  I always thought I preferred checks on a clip board to something public like a Clip Chart, and I used that system my first two years teaching.  Here's the thing about that--it didn't work for me.  Here's why I use the clip chart now and will never go back:
  • I would hesitate to give strikes and end up giving a lot of second chances--strikes were something that my kids couldn't earn away, so if a kid was one who tended to shut down, I wouldn't want to give one!  With the Clip Chart, I don't hesitate to say, "Clip Down," because nothing is "permanent"!  The kids can clip right back up!  No day is ever ruined in the kids' eyes.
  • The Clip Chart focuses on the positive.  I love how I can have the kids "Clip Up" all day long--there is always another level to move to!
  • Everyone starts on green.  I love that kids have somewhere to move UP, not just DOWN each day.  
  • I REMEMBER TO USE IT.  No, "Where's my clip board?" or, "Did I already give you a warning?"  I don't do "warnings" with the clip chart--the first clip down is the "warning."  Makes it easier for the kids to remember where they stand, and for me as well!
  • I worried about the "public" aspect of the clip chart, but in my experience it is motivating for the kids!  They love being able to get up in front of the class and move their clip up!
  • It is virtually "prizeless."  That is, I don't need to worry about a treasure box!  I do an *occasional* raffle with our PBIS tickets or our Boggle word slips, but I spend waaaaay less money on prizes now with the clip chart than I have with past systems (sticker charts, classroom economy, etc).  Besides saving me money, more importantly, no treasure box means the kids are striving for improvement because THEY WANT TO!  Internal motivation, BAM!  Love it!
Okay, I think that sums it up!  Tell me about your behavior management system or share your classroom management ideas by linking up below!

July 26, 2013

Rainy Day, Lazy Day

When your plans for a pool day are ruined by waking up to this...

What's a girl to do but embrace the yucky weather with a little of this...

And this...

Here's to a lazy day!

July 25, 2013

Three Things Thursday

This time next week I will be heading off to Boston, one of my absolute favorite cities, to visit my wonderful friend and fellow runner Michelle:
Us after the 2012 Kentucky Derby Half Marathon

Among other things, we will be running the Triple Threat Half Marathon in Cape Ann, Massachusetts. This course is going to be beautiful!  I have always wanted to race near the ocean!

I am super excited about this race, but after looking at the elevation...
((That might not seem like much to some of you, but I'm a Prairie State girl, born and raised!  
Hills are not my friend...))

...And realizing that the race starts at 10:15am, meaning we'll be finishing right at the hottest part of the day, we quickly realized this will NOT be a PR or a speedy race for either of us.  Instead, we decided to have a little fun with it.  When Michelle sent me the link to the Team Sparkle website, I didn't hesitate before jumping on board the sparkle skirt bandwagon!  These skirts were EVERYWHERE at the Disney Princess Half this year, and I was obsessed with them.  My awesome skirt arrived yesterday!
It is so cute and so light; I can't wait to run in it!
I did it.  Visited the teacher's store, that is!  Back to school shopping has officially begun.  I am sticking with the same turquoise, black, and polka dot decor as last year, so I shouldn't have to buy too much (hopefully!), but of course I needed a few new things!  Between a stop there and a trip to Target, I have some of the basics covered.  Last year I spent a ton of money on new things for the classroom, so this year I am trying to restrain myself!
Remember the heat wave I talked about last week?  Well, I was SO pumped to wake up yesterday to some nice and cool weather!  In fact, I was able to have a super lazy morning and head out for my run after 11 thanks to the cooler temps!
67 degrees at 11:05???  AMAZING!

I drove a little ways to a gorgeous trail that I discovered during half-marathon training in May.  I hadn't run there since then because my midweek runs I usually just run in my neighborhood and since I've been running my long runs with my training group.  Today called for 5-6 miles though, and this trail has a beautiful 5.5 mi unpaved loop, so I figured it was perect.
Beautiful!!!  And wonderful to finish a run in the middle of the day and not be so hot I thought I would pass out!  LOVE!

Do you run close to home or do you ever drive to running spots? 

Have you bought anything awesome for your classroom yet?

July 24, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday: YA Dystopia!

First off, gigantic thanks to my awesome older brother for designing a new header for my blog!  I love it!  He also bought my domain name as a surprise for me, so you can now reach me at juiceboxesandcrayolas.com.  (.blogspot.com still works, so no need to resubscribe!)  I feel so official now. ;)

Anyways, onto the reading!  Ahhh!  I am slacking on reading this week!  I have only ONE book to share with you!

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Goodreads SummaryWho is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn't remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?

This fascinating novel represents a stunning new direction for acclaimed author Mary Pearson. Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity. Mary Pearson's vividly drawn characters and masterful writing soar to a new level of sophistication.

My Thoughts:  Jenna Fox falls *loosely* into my beloved genre of YA dystopia.  There is no crazy government or uprising, but the book is set in the future, and the world is certainly different   Tons of medical advances have been made that can keep people alive and functioning when they would otherwise have been dead.  But overuse of antibiotics over the years have caused viruses to mutate into crazy deadly strands that left many dead and others disables.  I'd say Pearson was definitely trying to stir up some conversation about medical ethics, and I'd say she was mildly successful.  There were some thing that bothered me about the writing--lots of "telling" and not enough "showing" as I would tell my students--but overall I liked the book and was captivated by the story.  I was planning on giving this one 4 stars...until the end.  The ending of this one kind of killed it for me, and I thought the story totally fell flat.  It's the first book in a trilogy though (of course it is), and my friend assured me that I just have to keep reading; that book 2 is better.  I will definitely be reading the others this week, so I will keep you posted!

3/5 Stars

What have you been reading this week?

Cover art and summary are borrowed from goodreads.com, my favorite site ever. :)

July 23, 2013

Training Tuesday: The Other Side of the Water Table

The Day
I have completed 31 races since I started running (yes, I just counted!), but Sunday I got the chance to see what a race is like from a different point of view--a volunteer.  When Autism Speaks sent out an email asking for volunteers to help man a water station at the Chicago Rock and Roll Half Marathon, I signed up right away--and convinced my cousin to sign up with me!
31 races later...
We had to be downtown at our site at 5am, resulting in a 3:40am wake up call in order to give us time to both drive into the city and hit up a 24-hour Starbucks--who knew those even existed??  Even though the sun wasn't out yet, it was already humid!  We did manual labor for awhile setting up tables, had a mild freak out when some misinformed city traffic workers told us we had set up the wrong side of Michigan Avenue (separated by a hefty grassy median) and that we'd have to move everything, realized they were totally wrong, and then started in on the big job: the water cups.

Check out our awesome table of cups. At the time, three layers of cups (on many, many tables) seemed like enough.  Famous last words.

Before we knew it, the leading runners were passing through at lightning speeds.  After shoving a cup into their hands (who knew that super fast runners don't slow down and/or walk through water stops like me?), I very quickly realized I was going to get SOAKED during this job!  I loooved it, though.  I think I am a natural water station volunteer.  Maybe I can put that on my resume under "Additional Skills," hmm?

We stood in the streets of Chicago for hours, saying, "Water!  Water!" on repeat, cheering for runners, and handing out cup after cup.  It was totally and completely awesome...until it became totally and completely frantic.  When one table ran out of water, we moved down to help man a table that still had plenty...but at a certain point, almost every single table was out of water.  We desperately tried to keep up with the huge stream of thirsty and dehydrated runners that kept coming by filling pitchers at our water jugs and pouring into cups the waters had grabbed, their water bottles, anything.  I was standing in the street for a long time with a pitcher, just trying to get it IN the cups the runners were holding out to me, not all over them and their ipods.  I was only mildly successful!

That worked well for awhile...until we completely ran out of water near the end and had to tell the poor runners who were clearly struggling and in such bad need of a drink that we couldn't help them.  I felt awful!  Most of them were super understanding though.  I have to say, I don't understand how this can happen at a race.  The Rock and Roll Half has been going on in Chicago for years, always on a hot day.  I know runners take more water than usual when it's like this outside, but you'd think that after a year or two race organizers would be able to do a better job getting the right amount of water.  I can't imagine what that must be like for the runners--I hope it never happens to me at a race!

Thoughts on being a volunteer
I loved volunteering--what an awesome way to see a race from a different point of view.  I think runners probably make the best volunteers because we know what WE want to see at a water station, and we know what words we want to hear to motivate us!  I had to resist the urge to tell another volunteer that no, at mile 9 they are not "almost done."  No one wants to hear that until at least mile 12!!

I also have a completely new sense of gratitude for the sheer amount of effort it takes to put on a race from the volunteer standpoint.  I was on my feet for over 5 hours this morning and literally never paused.  Between set up, running around like a crazy person to get cups into runners' hands, and picking up crushed cups and oozing Gu packets off the street for an hour, after I got home I was ready to collapse back into my bed.  I felt like I'd run the race! (You better believe I took a 4 hour nap...)

The runners overall were so grateful.  Even when they had to stop and wait for a cup to be filled towards the end, they were so thankful.  Most were even understanding when we had run out of water, or understood that it wasn't our fault at least!  There were several runners who were a little rude or annoyed when the cup didn't get RIGHT into their hand or splashed on them, which kind of annoyed me, but almost everyone was the total opposite.  I always try to thank the volunteers at a race, but now I know that no matter how tired I am, I will thank every single person who hands me water on the course of every race I do from now on!

I am already looking for another half marathon or marathon to volunteer at this fall.  I may have a new hobby!  (And yay it's cheaper than actually running every race I can find!!)

Have you ever volunteered at a race?

Have you ever been in a race that ran out of water?

July 22, 2013

Management Monday: Restroom Routines in the Classroom

This week's tips for classroom management are all about the restroom!  This is another system that it took me a couple years to perfect, and of course it's one of those that may totally need to be revamped based on the group of kids you have.   I have always preferred individual restroom visits as opposed to a group restroom break because I think they take up less instructional time overall.  This post kind of spiralled out of control, but the more I wrote, the more I realized there are so many pieces to the routines!  Here are some things I consider:

When do I let them use the restroom?
I try to plan out in advance appropriate times when I will let me students use the restroom.  I understand that sometimes when you gotta go, you gotta go, but I feel like in my experience most kids can get into a pretty good routine of when they go.  I think it's super important to have an idea in your head of when you will and will not allow your students to leave the classroom and miss out on that sacred learning time.  Otherwise, when a student asks to leave, you might puzzle over it for a second, make a snap decision, and then change your mind later and not let another student go during that same subject.  With my 5th graders especially, being "fair" was an incredibly important part of earning their trust, so I really tried to be consistent.  Here are my typical rules

  • Times you MAY use the restroom: First thing in the morning when you get in/during announcements, during any transition time, during read aloud, during writing time (after the Writing Workshop mini-lesson), before and after lunch, before and after specials, during math ONLY if you are working independently (ex. guided math time but not working with the teacher)
  • Times you MAY NEVER use the restroom: During guided reading (even if you are not in a group!), during guided math groups, during ANY full group instruction (Writing Workshop mini-lesson, Math shared lesson, Science/SS lesson, etc.), during Intervention Block
How many times will I let them go?
Obviously some students have special needs when it comes to this type of thing, but I try very hard to stick to letting students go once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  They are also allowed to go at lunch time, so combined I feel that is PLENTY of opportunities.  Setting this expectation up front helps keep those few squirrly rascals from abusing restroom breaks!

How will they let me know when they need to go?
My pet peeve is students raising their hand when I'm teaching a lesson, me calling on them thinking they have a question, and them saying, "Can I use the restroom?"  UGH.  Lesson derailed, and my answer would of course be no in that situation anyways!  Instead, I use hand signals for both Restroom and Drink.
Hand Symbols and other reminder signs are posted in my room
Students know to hold up 1 finger when they need to use the restroom and 2 fingers when they would like to get a drink.  That way, no matter what I am doing, I can glance over, make eye contact, and simply nod my head yes or shake my head no.  Students know that if I say "no," it's either because someone is already there or it's not an appropriate time (i.e. NOT because I simply don't like them and want to say no...), and that they can ask again in a few minutes.  This way, even during a guided math group, I can send a student to the restroom from across the room without breaking my teaching stride.  Alternatively, you can teach kids the sign language signs for "toilet" and "water" which are super simple.  Many teachers in my building use these.

How many students will I allow at a time?  How will I enforce this?
I allow one boy and one girl to be out of the room at a time--period.  However, since I am constantly being pulled in 1000 different directions during the day, I can almost NEVER remember who is gone--even if I literally JUST gave them permission.  It's almost sad, really.  Early onset, school-induced dementia?  Tell me I'm not the only one!  Anyways, last year I tried something new to keep this straight, and I will NEVER go back!  Instead of restroom "passes" that the kids carry with them to the restroom (and that inevitably become a disgusting, germy mess--gross.), I have restroom beanie babies.
The elephant is for boys and the pig is for girls.  They live on a counter or file cabinet all day, and when a student goes to the restroom, they grab the beanie baby and place it on their desk.  That way, with a quick glance I know which student is gone.  Also, I know whether or not to allow a student to go. Ex. If Sally raises one finger, I glance over to the counter, see that the pink pig is not in its home, point to the empty space, and shake my head "No."  Sally knows that this means another girl is in the restroom, and that she needs to wait until the pig is back to ask again.  Most kids know to check the beanie baby home before they even ask to use the restroom, knowing only to ask when they are available.  Next year I will model and practice this piece of the system a little more!  I absolutely LOVE this routine, and I will never go back to another pass system.

Will I have students sign out?  How will I enforce this?
I keep my sign out sheets on a clipboard right outside my door.  I have used a desk for this in the past, and last year I switched midway through to an extra book shelf (we stored our LRC "return" and "renew" bins on the shelf too).  I copy a huge stack of sheets at the beginning of the year, clip a ton on at a time, and tie a pen to the clipboard with yarn or string.  I also keep a small digital clock out there because students cannot see our classroom clock from the room.  (This also solves the problem for needy students who may still struggle with telling time.  Of course I want them to learn, but I also want them to sign out correctly!)  I also keep a little paper tray next to the clip board for the filled sheets to be placed in.  
Classroom Sign Out
In the past, I really struggled with enforcing this procedure.  I'd get super frustrated when  the students wouldn't sign out or wouldn't sign out correctly.  I'd complain about it.  "Why can't they just do it right???"  Then I realized that, like EVERYTHING else in the classroom, instead of blaming the students, I needed to reflect on what I needed to do differently.  First, I needed to set my expectations more clearly.  I explain to the students on the first day why signing out is so important--if we have a fire or code red or tornado drill, I need to be able to check the sheet and know who is out of the room.  Knowing why they do something is really important, especially for older kids.  
Sign Out Sheets
Then, I model EXPLICITLY what I expect.  I have students model for the class the correct and incorrect ways to ask to use the restroom and sign out.  I make sheets for the kids to practice signing out on.  Seems like overkill, but it ALWAYS helps!  I also periodically glance at the sheets to check that students are signing out correctly.  If they're not, they get to practice signing in and out correctly at lunch for 5 minutes.  That usually does the trick!  It may seem like a lot of work for something little, but like I said, with my memory, there is no way I will remember which kid is in the restroom if we have a fire or lock down unless I have it written down.  Better safe than sorry, right?

Phew!  I think that covers everything!  It seems like so much information about something so small, but I really truly believe that getting little procedures and routines like this running smoothly can make all the difference from a management standpoint in the classroom!  Getting this procedure running like a well-oiled machine gives us the time and energy to focus on what matters--the teaching!!!

Tell me about your classroom restroom routines!

July 20, 2013

Four on Friday, a day late!

1. You guys, it's freakin' hot out in Chicago these days.  Wednesday evening at 7pm, it was still 95 degrees out with a "feels like" temp of 101.  Yesterday's heat index had a projected high of 110--not sure if it actually got up there, but it was pretty darn hot.  Yikes.  I've had the best intentions of getting up to run before dawn this week, but needless to say my summer lazies have led me to shut that alarm right off each morning.  Consequently, I've been running here:
 Hate this thing.  I usually tough it out and only resort to the dreadmill if I'm running super late at night or the dead of winter, but the humidity has been just killer and the streets and paths have minimal shade around here.  I know February will be here before I know it and I should savor this, but some days...

2. I keep seeing pictures on blogs and pinterest of people's classrooms that are almost completely set up.  Each time I have a mild panic attack.  We start school August 19th and I'll be on vacation August 1st-6th, so I was hoping to get in my room these last weeks in July to start making a dent.  Since I moved classrooms this year, I have a TON of work to do!  However, when I emailed the custodian to ask when my room would be ready, he told me that there is a "hold" on cleaning my room--the person previously in my room is moving to a room downstairs, and that teacher is moving schools.  However, the other school is finishing some work and can't accept her boxes yet, so the things from my room's previous teacher can't be moved yet...you get the picture.  I already told my mom and a couple coworkers that I am going to need a SWAT team style task force to help me get unpacked and ready to go once I can finally get in there!!
All these boxes need to be unpacked!  Ahhhh!

3. I have been trying to find ways to beat the heat this week!  Yesterday my friend and I hit up the Six Flags water park, Hurricane Harbor.  I'd always balked at the steep price tag for this place, but I'm so glad we went--we had a blast and stayed cool the whole day!  I'd forgotten how much fun water slides are!  (Although we definitely BURNED the bottoms of our feet walking around on what can only be described as the scalding hot pavement all day!)  No pics to share unfortunately!

Thursday, I visited by high school bestie in Milwaukee yesterday.  To beat the heat, we went to the beach and literally SPRINTED down to the water because the sand was so burning hot!  Nothing like a little freezing Lake Michigan water to cool you off!!  This was one day I didn't mind that cold lake!  There was also food:

And pie:
At this point I figure that if I can't work in my classroom, I might as well enjoy the end of my summer!

4. Did you happen to see this cartoon on The Oatmeal this week?  I loved it!
Some highlights that ring true for me:
Seriously, I am one hungry runner these days!  I can't imagine how much I'll be eating once my training really steps it up...hope I can afford the grocery bill!!  (As I write this, I am gorging myself on chocolate almonds.  Not quite nutella through a straw, but I'm thinking it's a slippery slope...)
Um yeah...some of these early morning runs followed by busy days lead me to be more likely found collapsed on the living room floor than, you know, keeping my apartment livable...
Just YES.  Exactly.

Anyways, hope you are having a fabulous weekend!  I'm just relaxing today after a busy past couple days and my hot and sweaty long run this morning, but tomorrow I'm volunteering at the Rock and Roll Chicago half marathon.  Anyone running it?

What do you have planned for the weekend?

July 18, 2013

Tips for Teaching Job Interviews

Interview ready!
Between interviewing for jobs on my first job-hunt post-undergrad and interviewing AGAIN after getting RIFed last year, I have done quite a few teaching interviews!  Everything from huge panel interviews to Skype interviews to teaching cold lessons to a group of random kids, you name it.  Interviews can definitely be scary, but I definitely feel more comfortable now with interviewing than I did at first.  Of course I'm not an administrator and every administrator looks for different things, but here are some of the tips I've learned along the way.  Hope they help with your teaching interview!

What should I wear and bring?
  • For most of my interviews, I wore a simple black suit over a nice top.  I think a suit looks nice and professional, but if you don't have one, wear dress pants or a (knee length!) skirt and a blouse or nice top.  Remember to be fairly conservative--this is a teaching position after all!  
  • While every school I've ever interviewed at had a copy of my resume printed already from my online app, I always bring a packet with a copy of a resume, my teaching certificate, and my recc letters just in case.  I bring a padfolio to keep them in and to be able to take notes on in case I have any questions at the end.
  • I also brought a portfolio to most of my interviews.  If you choose to make an interview portfolio, KEEP IT SIMPLE!  I Included a few samples of student work, but also tried to include as many pictures as possible.  I included pictures of students doing hands on activities, group work, things they might see in my classroom.  I also took pictures of some of the management things I have hanging up in my classroom that I knew I would be mentioning in my interview (clip chart, etc.).
  • Bring a bottle of water!  Some interviews are L O N G!  You might want a quick sip--or a 10 second break between questions!
What kinds of things should I be prepared to talk about?
  • My best advice for this one is to have a handful of really awesome home run lessons in the back of your mind that you can use to answer any question.  It is SO IMPORTANT to give specific examples to back up pretty much every answer.  Seriously, anyone can google "good answers to teaching interview questions" and spout out all the jargon, but you will stand apart from the crowd if you back up every answer with an example from your experience.  
    • Ex. If you are talking about how you would use assessment in the classroom, share your philosophy and ideas followed by, "For example, I was teaching a unit on _____.  Before beginning, I had students do a quick write about the topic that I used as a pre-assessment tool to gauge their understanding about the topic before beginning.  During the unit, I used slates and exit slips to check in after lessons during the week.  At the end of the unit, my students created projects in groups..."  etc. etc. etc.
  • If you have any non-teaching experience that you think is valuable, be prepared to mention it and to explain why it would make you a great teacher.  I worked with children with autism during college doing behavioral therapy (ABA), and at my first interviews I wasn't sure how to talk about this experience in a way that would connect directly to the classroom.  Eventually, I figured out some specific examples from my therapy experiences that I could use to support my interview questions.  Think of those experiences and how they make you a better teacher in advance so you are prepared.
    • Ex. If you worked as a waitress or in customer service, you have great experience working with a wide variety of personalities!  This is sooo important as a teacher!
  • Have an answer in mind for the question, "Tell us about yourself."  This seems SO simple, but it can be so easy to draw a blank on this question!  It's totally okay to talk about some of your interests outside of school--remember, you want them to see the whole person and to remember YOU when they are reviewing candidates.  Do you do volunteer work?  Run marathons?  Do yoga?  Being well-rounded is important!  
  • Have an answer in mind for the question, "Why do you want to be a teacher?"  Again, this seems like a no-brainer, but to be honest this was one of the hardest questions for me when I was first interviewing and starting out teaching.  For many of us, we have known our whole lives that we would be teachers.  I like to talk about how teaching is so much a part of who I am; about how I come alive in the classroom.  How it is a privilege for me to have the chance to make a difference with kids, and how above all I care about kids.  A principal once told me not to say that you "like kids" in your answer to this question--anyone can "like kids," but good teachers truly care.  
  • Some other topics you should be prepared to talk about in pretty much every interview:
    • Assessment
    • Classroom Management (This includes your classroom routines, not just behavior management!!  Always start your answer to this question by how you teach expected behavior upfront so your students understand and know your expectations.   Building relationships is a huge part of my management, so I always make sure to talk about relationships with students in my management answer.)
    • Differentiation (including small group instruction)
    • Literacy Block (Definitely research the school's literacy curriculum in advance--do they use a basal?  Do they support more of an interdisciplinary approach to reading?)
    • Math (Does the school use a guided math structure?)
    • Technology
    • Parent Communication
    • Supporting English Language Learners (If you have no experience with ELL kiddos and are interviewing in a district with a large ELL population, try and think of some relevant experiences that you do have that would transfer.  For example, have you worked in a classroom with a wide range of needs?)
    • Collaborating with other teachers like ELL, special services, reading specialist/working in a Professional Learning Community/PLC (I have been asked in many interviews to talk about an experience I had working with a difficult colleague and how I handled it.  Have an example in mind or at least an idea of what you would do!) 
  • At a mock interview during my student teaching, the principal asked me, "Do you want your students to like you?"  I totally stammered some answer about how I wanted them to respect me but it didn't matter if they liked me.  Afterwards, he told me to throw that answer in the trash--OF COURSE we want our students to like us!  I use this type of question as an opportunity to talk about how important I think building relationships with kids is in the classroom.
  • Have a plan for a closing statement.  At the end of most interviews, you may be asked if there is anything else they should know about you.  I have always take this time to talk about how, above all, I am dedicated to teaching and committed to my students.  I would share how there may be other teachers who have more experience, but how I will do whatever it takes to help my students succeed (including asking for help when I need it!).  Leave them with some powerful words that truly reflect who you are as a teacher.
What if I don't have a clue how to answer a question?
  • First, it is ALWAYS okay to ask for clarification if you just don't understand a question.  Better to understand the question than say something totally off topic because you didn't understand!
  • A great, easy way to buy time is to, after hearing the question, pause briefly and restate it back to them as the beginning of your answer.  This gives you a second to collect your thoughts--just make sure that when you do answer, you support it with examples!
Other Tips
  • Speak slowly!  My biggest struggle... :)
  • Speak from the heart.
  • Try and make eye contact with everyone in the room.  I've had some big panel interviews, and this can be tricky!
  • Send a thank you email to the principal after the interview at the very least.  You might also want to send one to the assistant principal.
  • Be yourself.  This sounds so obvious, but it is really important.  Getting the job is obviously the goal, but it is such a great feeling knowing you got the job because of YOU and because the teacher you are and the things you believe in fit well with the school.  
What tips do you have for teaching going through the interview process?

July 17, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Mysteries, a Love Story, a Nonfiction, and a YA Classic

I have a ton of books to share with you this week after missing my reading recaps the past few weeks!  I seriously loved a couple of these books, so definitely scroll through and check them out!

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Goodreads Summary: A stunning debut novel in which a single mother reconstructs her teenaged daughter's life, sifting through her emails, texts, and social media to piece together the shocking truth about the last days of her life.

Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is stunned when her daughter's exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, calls with disturbing news: her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.  Kate can't believe that Amelia, an ambitious, levelheaded girl who's never been in trouble would do something like that. But by the time she arrives at Grace Hall, Kate's faced with far more devastating news. Amelia is dead. 

Seemingly unable to cope with what she'd done, a despondent Amelia has jumped from the school's roof in an act of "spontaneous" suicide. At least that's the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. And overwhelmed as she is by her own guilt and shattered by grief, it is the story that Kate believes until she gets the anonymous text: She didn't jump.

Sifting through Amelia's emails, text messages, social media postings, and cell phone logs, Kate is determined to learn the heartbreaking truth about why Amelia was on Grace Hall's roof that day-and why she died.  Told in alternating voices, Reconstructing Amelia is a story of secrets and lies, of love and betrayal, of trusted friends and vicious bullies. It's about how well a parent ever really knows a child and how far one mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she could not save.

My Thoughts: I was totally enthralled in this story and flew through it in about two days.  This book reminded me a lot of Defending Jacob in the way we were trying to piece together what really happened in the story along with the narrator.  I also love any book that includes chapters from other characters' points of view, especially if they are flashbacks that help fill in the holes in the story.  This book kept me guessing until the very end, and I never predicted the plot twists it threw at me.  A great read!

4/5 stars

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

Goodreads Summary: What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century? ... 

Here you'll find the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling creations of pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer" who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and why it was that employers in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate. ...  

What the Dog Saw is yet another example of the buoyant spirit and unflagging curiosity that have made Malcolm Gladwell our most brilliant investigator of the hidden extraordinary.

My Thoughts:  I have mixed feelings about this book.  I am a big Malcolm Gladwell fan, having devoured and loved his earlier books Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers.  Even years later I still find myself telling people some of the fascinating anecdotes described in those books.  I hoped What the Dog Saw would be more of the same...and it KIND OF was.  This book is different in that it's a collection of Gladwell's articles from the New Yorker.  The stories are all the same style and genre as his other books, but the problem was that half of them were fascinating...and half were totally boring IMHO.  For example, I loved the chapter about advertising and Clairol's famous "Does she or doesn't she?" campaign, the chapter about how it's impossible to predict the success of football quarterbacks in the NFL and how it's similarly impossible to predict the success of teaches in the field, and several others.  I do recommend the book...but I totally recommend skipping the chapters you're not interested in!

3/5 stars

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Goodreads Summary: From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, hallways hum “Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. Until they are not. Leo urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her - normal.

My Thoughts: I honestly can't believe it took me this long to read this one!  I've had it in my classroom since I started teaching, and I know it was around when I was a teen because that cover is just unforgettable.  I read this book in a day and loved it.  It's written in that unique Spinelli storytelling style where the narrator is almost observing from afar even though in this case he is involved in the plot.  Would make a great book for some powerful discussions about friendship, being true to yourself, and love.  While the readability level and content are appropriate for elementary grades, I think I would recommend this book more to junior high students--my kiddos would likely miss some of the big ideas in this one.  Looking forward to reading the sequel!

4/5 stars

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Goodreads Summary: Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office e-mail. But the women still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. Jennifer tells Beth everything she can't seem to tell her husband about her anxieties over starting a family. And Beth tells Jennifer everything, period.

When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he hardly imagined he'd be sifting through other people's inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company e-mail, but he can't quite bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can't help but be entertained-and captivated- by their stories.

But by the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late for him to ever introduce himself. What would he say to her? "Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you." After a series of close encounters and missed connections, Lincoln decides it's time to muster the courage to follow his heart . . . even if he can't see exactly where it's leading him.

My Thoughts:  I brought this book up to my book club as a possible read, and one of my friends commented that after reading things like Twilight, "We've never read a book from the point of view of the stalker!" :)  This was a great twist on a chick lit story.  While reading, I found myself constantly wondering if what Lincoln was doing was really wrong and what I would do in his position.  Or I'd think about how, if I was Beth, how would I react to hearing about what Lincoln had done?  Captivating and fun.

4/5 stars

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
Goodreads Summary: On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.

Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.

Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life.

My Thoughts:  Another book that I just flew through!  I wouldn't normally have picked this one up, but my Dad recommended it, and I'm so glad I read it.  I was fascinating by the detailed process the narrator describes as she both analyzes the Degas painting, bringing her to the conclusion that it's a forgery and the process she goes through to create a completely fool-proof copy.  This is also another book that jumps back and forth between a couple periods of time in the author's life, as well as includes letters from the time period in which the original Degas was painted, so it definitely falls into that category of "filling in the blanks in the story" books.  Totally recommend!

4/5 Stars
What have you been reading lately?

*As always, italicized summaries and cover art are courtesy of goodreads.com.  

July 16, 2013

Training Tuesday: Marathon Training Update--5 weeks down!

Yesterday marked the first day of Week 6 in marathon training, and the weekend marked exactly THREE MONTHS until I will be running 26.2 miles through the beautiful streets of Chicago!  Woohoo!  I am excited but still nervous, as I'm sure I will be allll summer long.  I've been logging ALMOST all of my runs, trying my best to get to yoga class (vacation definitely put that on pause, but I'm planning on getting back into my routine today!), and doing my best to foam roll.  So far, so good!

First up, check out my awesomely bright new kicks!
I snagged these in a fierce bidding war in an ebay auction that kept me up until after 1am the other night.  See, I am a HUGE fan of Brooks Pure Cadence shoes.  I have several pairs of the original Cadences, and bought a pair of the Cadence 2s this spring.  I just pulled the 2s off the shelf, took them for a run, and was completely disappointed to find I don't love them nearly as much as the originals.  In fact, they just plain felt weird.  Instead of trying to figure out a new shoe, I went on a frantic google search to see if I could track down one more pair of original Cadences in my size so I don't have to mess with a new shoe before the marathon.  I think these were the last women's 8.5 in existence!!  I ended up paying way too much for a shoe that is a year old (but new!), but it's totally worth it!
My Cadence Collection!
Saturday morning I ran 10 miles with my training group.  Deciding to run with an organized training group and program was the best decision I could have made for my training.  After spending all winter and spring training on the familiar running trails by my house, I was bored of everything--the routes, my music, training in general.  My pace group is super small compared to many of the faster other ones, but I'm loving running with some new people in a new place.  The miles pass WAY more quickly when I'm not so bored!  

The crazy thing is that after running half-marathons for the past three years, 10 miles is what I think of when I think of a really long run.  My half training typically culminated in one or two 10 milers before race day.  It is sooo strange to think that the 10 miles I pounded out on Saturday is only the START of my training!  We have so much further to go!  Yikes!  I am excited to be setting some personal distance records in the coming weeks (and grateful that next week is a step-back week in training...).

After my run Saturday, I made it home and literally collapsed on the FLOOR.  Yup, the floor.  I think I was probably planning on foam rolling, but the next thing I knew I was waking up an hour later...whoops.  After all of my long runs lately I have been craving Jimmy John's veggie subs and salt and vinegar chips.  Probably mostly for the salty chips!  I headed straight there when I woke up and couldn't even make it home before busting those chips open.  YUM!
In fundraising news, I have raised almost $2,000 for Autism Speaks!  This is my first time running a race for a charity, and nothing offers motivation like knowing you are running for something bigger than yourself!  Visit my fundraising page here if you are interested in learning more about my connection to autism and possibly donating!
My goals for this week are to get in all my midweek runs, make it to at least one yoga class, and crosstrain at least one day.  

Tell me I'm not the only one who has fallen asleep on the floor in sweaty running clothes before...sadly this was not the first time that has happened to me...

What are your post-run cravings?  I usually have a chocolate milk right after my run to refuel, but this Jimmy John's craving has been going strong for a few months now!

What are your training goals for the week?

July 15, 2013

Management Monday: Morning Check-In

I'm excited to start a new weekly series though as the weeks of summer wind down (hold me) and school gets closer and closer.  I have talked before about how one of my biggest struggles during my first year of teaching was both Classroom and Behavior Management.  Since then, however, I feel like those became two of my strongest areas as a teacher.  Probably mostly because I HAD to learn these things in order to survive as a teacher!

Anyways, for the rest of summer, I'm going to blog about one aspect or technique I use as part of my classroom or behavior management.  Hoping you will share your ideas in the comments!

Today I want to talk about my Morning Check-In routine.  I have tweaked this over the years, and I liked last year's system.  Every morning, my kids know that they are allowed to enter the room when I am standing at the door ready to greet them.  It drives me crazy hearing, "Can we come in????" or even worse have students wandering around the room when I'm not there.  Knowing that I will be by the door to welcome them in solves this problem!  My kids line up single file outside the door as they come.  The first thing they do is visit our Check In poster (see below), find their clothes pin on the "Home" side, and move it to the "School" side.
Sorry I had to cut off the picture, but the student names were visible on the poster
Next, I shake their hands, smile, and say, "Good morning!"  I've talked about before how this is an important part of my classroom environment and relationship building--the kids make a personal connection with me before they enter the room, and I try my best to let them know I'm glad they're here!  I also teach some basic social skills during this time--handshake, make eye contact, smile, etc.  It's always crazy to me how the kiddos need reminders to make eye contact!

After the kids are all in, I leave the doorway and begin our opening traditions with the class (more on those in another post), but I still try to get in a handshake with any kids who arrive late.  Then, during the morning announcements, I check the Check In chart to see which clips are still on Home, make sure those kids aren't in the room, and use that to take attendance.  Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!

July 14, 2013

Race Recap: Schaumburg Duathlon

Hi guys!  Between wrapping up a wonderful vacation in Florida, getting a yucky summer cold, and trying to get back into the marathon training routine, blogging fell right off the table for awhile there!  This recap is a little late, but better late than never!

One of my goals for 2013 was to finish my first duathlon, and on July 7th I did!  I'm going to tell you upfront, this was NOT my favorite race.  In fact, I was pretty much just praying for it to end the entire time.  This is mostly due to the fact that I had some sort of yucky cold and sinus thing going on, and all I wanted was to still be in my bed.  Still, I powered through and finished the race! Let's start at the beginning...
I convinced one of my best friends who was visiting from grad school to do the tri--he barely trained and finished lightyears before I did... :)

Most of the athletes were participating in the triathlon race simultaneously going on, so when I lined up for the start of the run (a very casual mid street start I might add!), I quickly realized just how tiny this race was.  Have you ever felt like you had a very real possibility of coming in last in a race?  Yeah, that was how I felt during this race--at least the first run leg!  Seriously, when the race started literally EVERYONE took off at crazy speeds--I honestly kept looking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't last!  I wasn't even going that slow, sinuses aside!  Oh well--the perils of a tiny race!  I finished the first 5K run in 30:52, and my T1 time was 1:08.
The bike leg was really where the race started to suck.  I had just gotten home from vacation in Florida a couple days before and hadn't ridden more than 5 miles on my bike since before the trip.  I knew going in that the bike was going to be a rough time, and I was right.  Being such a small race meant that I was totally by myself for portions of the race, wondering if I was in last...this was one of those rough rides when you find yourself giving yourself pep talks...out loud...and not caring if other people can hear you.  I know, I am pathetic.  I'd see the 7 mile mark and say, "Okay, 7 miles, 5 more, you can do it.  Keep pedling."  I'm going to blame the sinus congestion for clouding my rational thought!!

Painful as it was, I survived the 12.8 mile bike with a crazy slow time of 52:47, and raced through T2 in 1 minute flat.  The second 5K run I actually felt a little better (finally warmed up maybe?), and finished in 31:36 with a good sprint to the finish.  
My final time for the duathlon was 1:57:17, and while I didn't really enjoy the race, I'm happy that I gave it my all even though I felt like just staying home and taking a DNS.  I think I prefer triathlons to duathlons, but I'm happy that I tried something new with this race!

Have you ever done a race while sick?  I actually set both my 5K and half-marathon PRs with colds, but I think the sinus congestion plus the awful humidity just combined to make this race especially painful!!
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