Still Seeking Support (Educational Materials for Inner-City School)


I posted up a request a few days back. You can read the whole blog here. I’m on a quest to get some books in the hands of my 10th graders. The problem is, my district is poor, and books are very, very, very expensive.  120 books would cost my district between $2400-$2800. It’s a bit much. My district is anticipating having to lay off 93.5 positions for the 2014-2015 school year – so there is really no wiggle room for books. 

I’ve created an Adopt-A-Class page where I’m seeking any support. While I clearly want to help my students, I do realize that times are tough for everyone. I just have hope that one day we may be able to get the novels the kids are just dying to read. (Really! They want to read.) 

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Buyer Beware: You May Just Educate

Buyer Beware: You May Just Educate.

Sharing for a good cause!

Buyer Beware: You May Just Educate

Greetings family, friends, and guardian angels,

I’m writing to you on behalf of my classroom and my students.  While I am typically not the type to solicit help from others, I find that in these difficult times – and with impending budget cuts and teacher layoffs – that I am willing to take just a minute to ask around.
I currently teach 10th grade English for the Utica City School District.  While I can’t speak for others in the district, I know that my own needs in the classroom are demanding more than I can afford.  I’m writing to many people with the hope that some may help in even the smallest way, or at the very least pass along the information to someone who may be able to help.
The one resource that I cannot afford this year is a set of books. Specifically, A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (2007). My students have just finished reading Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick (2012) and Beah’s memoir would be the perfect follow-up. I’ve searched our library and BOCES systems and have only turned up about 20 copies that can be loaned.  The problem is, I teach approximately 120 students.
So, I’m launching my own campaign to get the books in my classroom. I’m hoping to raise funding or have books donated. With around 120 students, I was hoping to acquire around 100-120 copies of the book.  I figured if I could find 100 people willing to donate just one book, I can reach my small goal. Needless to say, I’m hopeful.  Another method to donate is through the “Adopt-A-Class” page.
On my Facebook page, I’ve posted a bit asking people to share the information. The response to help my students is overwhelming and has brought a few tears to my eyes. Currently, I have approximately 24 books that have been donated/purchased and will be shipped to me directly at my high school.
Should anyone feel the urge to support my students and my teaching choices by donating a book or a small sum to help cover the cost of a book, you may send it to:
Thomas R. Proctor High School
1203 Hilton Avenue
Utica, New York 13501
c/o Stacy Dawes
Again, the book title is A Long Way Gone and it is available on (and other sellers). While beggars can’t be choosers, the hardcover editions provide schools with the most bang for the buck, because they will undoubtedly last longer. The hardcover books can range in price from $4 to $24 depending on the condition (new or like new).
Another thing that our inner city students can truly benefit from are ESL dictionaries; specifically, Karen-English and Nepali-English. Utica is home to one of two United States Refugee Centers. Our school faces the typical challenges of poverty, but we have an interesting mix of nationalities due to the refugee population. I believe at last count over 47 languages were spoken in Proctor.  Our students are still required to take the New York State Regents exams, and many of our kids do not have their own dictionaries. We have about 20 copies of a Karen (Burmese) to English dictionary. We have many, many, many more students in need than we do dictionaries available for them.
Please feel free to contact me and/or share my contact information. I hope that this contact was not offensive. I’m often too embarrassed to ever ask of others, but I am willing to put more on the line for the needs of my students.
On behalf of my students, I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart for your time and consideration.

Taking a Moment…

I know, I know. I haven’t been committed to writing on this blog as of late. I’ve been busy. This is why I could never really be a blogger (though I do have dreams). Here’s my update that I’m writing in lieu of grading my students’ Think papers.

*** I am currently trying to revamp my wardrobe. Confidence sometimes comes through other things – for me it’s well fitting, fashionable clothing. I spent a decent amount of money and made some new purchases this year including

  • cardigans
  • Kenneth Cole Reaction black leather riding boots
  • a dozen or so new shirts in prints and colors I have not previously considered
  • black, royal blue, and grey blazers
  • four new pairs of pants in colors other than black
  • two new skirts

Now I just need to get some inexpensive jewelry to gussy it up. 

*** My lungs were doing great for a while after we took care of the black mold in my basement and I had a bit of time with my remedies from the kinesiologist. Sadly, I haven’t been there in a long time, and am running very low or OUT of those medications.  I’ve been suffering from seasonal allergies and asthma lately. So much that I haven’t been able to go to the gym. (They’re still charging me though! $156 a month! I wish they would just post-pone my membership for the time that I need to heal. I love the gym and it’s effects, but my lungs were at 87% oxygen level and I was feeling worse and worse leaving the gym. I also have an allergy to latex/rubber and the floors in the gym are triggering my allergies.)

*** I started the school year off strong. My classes are performing and the progress I’ve made with them is impressive. The classes are no more challenging than usual, but the kids are fun. Mostly nice. I read this morning (and watched) about the school shooting out west and the math teacher who was murdered by her 14 year old student and I continually think about my profession. It saddens me. 

I was asked to present some technology to a literacy group in December and I am flattered. It’s nice to feel that I have something to offer the community of educators. 

I also have a student-teacher who has been assigned to me this year.  I am technically on a TIP (Technicality in Paperwork) or as the government likes to call it Teacher Improvement Plan.  My entire grade level shot themselves in the foot by making a rigorous test, as well as asinine achievement levels for the kids. (Thank you to the woman who directed us to do this). None of the other English teachers made such strict demands and, therefore, are not on TIPs. Oh well. I digress, why in the world would a teacher in need of improvement is placed with someone else to teach – as well as turn over the classroom to that person?? It confuses me.  My first two student teachers were weak and I had difficulty working with both. This student teacher started out strangely – we met up prior to the placement at a place of her choosing. She chose the local casino and we were just going to meet up. The date of the meeting, the student teacher messaged me to confirm the time and told me that she was also planning on eating dinner while there. I figured that was fine. We met up and talked for almost three hours. When the check came, the student teacher informed me that she only had brought 10 dollars! (Yet she ordered a $14 burger). Anyway… then came the first week. Her placement was supposed to start this past Monday – needless to stay that didn’t happen because of a side-effect from migraine medication. The student teacher missed the first two days of the placement. I found out from her cooperating teacher prior that she missed 3 and half days of her previous placement and now missed 2 more days with me.  I was not permitted to miss any days while student teacher and found it odd. The rest of the week went okay – and I’m starting to feel positive about her interest in working with the kids. We’ll see how it goes. One can only hope, correct?

*** I desperately would like a manicure and pedicure.

*** I’m starting to think about purchasing a new MacbookPro. 

*** I’m also starting to think about family planning. ( ‽  ‽  ‽ ) 

*** I need to get my cleaning and my grading done today – because I wait tables tomorrow. If it’s anything like this past week – I’m leery. Talk about disorganized. 

*** I want to take a winery tour this fall. 

*** I need more recipes for squash. I’ll probably check out Pencils and Pancakes blog for some of those! 


T-Minus Eight Days (and Counting)…

So the second half of this summer has flown by. I’ve been incredibly busy – almost non-stop. 

My lungs are on the mend, thanks to my mother’s help. There was black mold down in my basement that was really taking it toll on my health! This is the first house I’ve ever owned, and I’ve never had a basement before, so I didn’t know anything about mold. I learned too little to late. I went down to the kinesiologist for three appointments. What a strange practice! I don’t understand it at all, but I guess I don’t have to. I don’t ask other doctors to explain how they come up with their diagnosis, so I really shouldn’t question the kinesiologist either. What I did find, was that my lungs are now on the mend. And with the hard work of my mother, I have a basement freshly pained with drylok, and I have a dehumidifier. Amen. It seems to be doing well. Now to get the rest of my house in order! 

Only one week of lesson planning, curriculum writing, classroom set up, and house organization to go.

Hubby just got offered a job working with Criminally Insane as well as a “ticket” to the NYS Troop Academy. (When it rains it pours). It’ll be very nice for him to get out of the school district. He needs something new and good. 

Back to work!

ULTA: Urban Decay Naked Summer Event


I’ll post more later but I wanted to share how awesome my friend Kathy is.

“It is better t…

“It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation.” ~ Michael Jackson

Spoiler Alert: Complaining Ahead

Is it too much to ask for collegiality and common respect? I guess so. 

I had a rough day. Nothing that a boot camp session from Next Level couldn’t help alleviate. But still, it lingers on my mind. 

I was asked to help co-present a book-study (strategies and heuristics from Writing Analytically) to all the department chairs in my high school. It was a paid presentation, and I figured if no one else in my department would or could do it, then I would. No big deal. 

I didn’t account for the other two presenters planning the entire program out without me. I didn’t plan on having to just “jump in” and present only when called upon by my co-presenter. I didn’t plan at all. I was told to just show up. I was told “we could do this in our sleep.”  I didn’t plan on failure, but that’s what I got. 

I got to school around 9 a.m. on Wednesday, as directed. When I arrived, my department chair was already well into discussion – and the other presenter was there as well. I was not included or coached. I merely sat down and put on a happy face.  Stragglers entered the room, and I happily jumped up and got them all the materials. The speaker talked, and talked, and talked and we were horribly off task. I can’t say that the discussion was really that productive either. It was conversation that broached issues, danced around them, then flitted away into whispers amongst table members. Then, very impromptu, I was unexpectedly introduced by the other presenter to go over something I’ve gone over countless times. I wasn’t really sure about the duo “on stage” and I wasn’t quite sure how to play off him or where he was taking his presentation.  It was awkward, but I smiled through – I’ve had worse moments in the spotlight.  In the eyes of skeptical, overworked, and incredibly frustrated educators – it didn’t matter who was presenting. There are bigger fish to fry – and I greatly assume they were required to attend this workshop as part of a building-wide administrative initiative to create a common language and skills set regarding literacy. Three hours each day;  Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, respectively.

So here comes my complaining. 

After some of the commentary in our long-winded, table-by-table discussion, I realized that I had taken and used a great Close Reading strategy from iTeach. iCoach. iBlog. Some of my ELL/ESL students made beyond impressive gains using this technique. I was so excited to share it that I asked if I could just briefly present it.  

I should have started with a different question. As soon as it came out of my mouth I knew it was something that was going to garner the attention of the teachers. You throw in some buzz-words, like differentiation, or close-reads, or accountablity.  But before I even got the remainder of my sentence out of my mouth, I was cut off by an irritated history teacher who stood and pointed fingers at me like I had accused him of not teaching. This, of course, was enough of an inciting incident that sparked yet another off topic discussion, with which I was powerless to gather the attention back to the 3-5 minute presentation about an effective strategy for a Close Read. Instead, I had a colleague heatedly debating about semantics and common language and administrative folly (directives). The conversation was so insanely off-topic, and loud, that I couldn’t even interject. My department chair and others “came to my defense” by joining in the conversation – essentially overpowering my own voice. I sat there dumbfounded that it all got so out of control. I left feeling dejected and worthless. I can control a large group of 15-16 year old kids with little problem, but the more adult age group is not my specialty. I asked what I needed to do/know about the following day and was told “nothing.”

Flash forward to today: I again showed at 9 a.m. Determined to keep my mouth shut and only speak when spoken to, I again found myself “late” and the book study underway. The PowerPoint presentation that my name was added to, was not proofread and I received texts about how all the math and science teachers noted the lack of proofreading. Embarrassing. I mean, when the words are copied from other source texts it’s really disappointing when “depth vs. breadth” was written and presented as “depth v. breathe.” I digress. 

I remained silent until we were covering a poem that I’ve studied and presented countless times. I wanted to help make a connection that some of the teachers might encounter in their classrooms with “The Method” (the instruction was so quick and not very clear) so I started a discussion playing the role of the “student” who may present the problem (not behaviorally, but in a strategy where you ask kids to list what they notice, I’ve found that some kids notice what is not there. Which can present a problem if teachers don’t anticipate this answer. But this is actually something that students should be encouraged to do!) Instead, I was met with the other colleagues/”students” in the class telling me I’m wrong and I was shut out of the conversation – exactly what this process is designed NOT to do! If I were a real student in that class, I would have been lost. I would have felt ostracized and not valued. In fact, I did a bit as a colleague, to be honest. The other two presenting really disappointed me at that point. Various points of view would need to be established for these activities to be valid, instead I was shot down by the majority and the “teachers” just let that single idea be steamrolled. 

Another disappointing day. 

Flash forward to tomorrow: I don’t know what is to come. But I think it best for me to just sit back and watch. My opinions and thoughts are clearly not wanted and I can’t begin to explain how unhappy it makes me feel to be treated this way.  We have fantastic teachers in our district. For the most part they all want to be continually successful with our challenging demographic. I just wish there was a way to “curb the negativity” and just move forward in a way that is productive and positive. When did school join the ranks of “the rat race?”

I Did It: I Made it a Month, And I Went Back For More

It’s true. I told myself that if I can make it the month through the trial boot camp, then I have earned new sneakers and some clothing… I did that but what I really wanted to give myself was a summer of continued success. So I joined the Next Level Family officially, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve done so much for others over the past few years that I need to recharge my batteries. I’m all out of juice.

My friend, Stephanie, says that weight loss and health is 70% what you eat, and 30% working out. I haven’t been on a specific eating plan yet. I’ve attempted to clean up my eating a bit, but have faltered. I think my problem is I have read so much information about various diets, and there are points to all of them that make sense to me. Too much information though has caused me to be overwhelmed in the diet area. I just don’t know what’s “best” to do.

Weight Watchers, Paleo, Atkins, The Blood Type Diet, South Beach, The Belly Fat Cure… so many diets, so much information, so overwhelming!

I haven’t sat down with the Next Level staff yet and really started yet. I will need to get measured, and set some goals – as well as get my nutrition information (which I think will make a huge difference). I’m looking forward to that next week. I have a “camping” trip planned (group planned to rent a cottage – which isn’t camping to me, but hey, it’s something to do on the first few days of a teacher’s summer vacation!) Camping is going Sunday afternoon through Tuesday morning, and then I’ll return to go to a boot camp class, clean myself up, and meet up with some good friends I haven’t seen in a very long time. The three days that follow will be back working in the high school building training department chairs on some of the strategies and heuristics we use to promote literacy. Oh, and playing volleyball.

With that said, summer vacation really won’t begin until after that is over, but then I’ll have 10 weeks of “downtime” in which I plan to eat healthy, exercise at Next Level, and plan out my next school year for success. Somewhere in there will include visiting my family down on Long Island, playing volleyball, and getting back into my obsession with teas.

I had to change my kinesiologist appointment to July 9th… bummer. But I’ll update on that point when I actually have something worth reporting beyond my questions.

I did spend a bit of this week with my sister and we went and got out nails done. I’m loving my new polish! See picture below. 🙂




Recipe: Guilt Free Coconut Almond Candies

So my mother passed this recipe along to me. She’s using The Belly Fat Cure to control her weight (along with some bike riding) for both she and my father. They’ve done well on the diet, and are really enjoying the new recipe options they are coming across. This one in particular struck me as something I may enjoy: little chocolate/coconut/almond candies. Low sugar, low carb, pretty tasty. 🙂

The Recipe Ingredients: (I try to shoot for unprocessed/organic stuff)

  • 6 (heaping) tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped or sliced almonds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 30 drops of stevia (or use vanilla stevia) (or 2 Tablespoons of maple syrup, if you’re not watching carbs/sugars)


  1. Melt coconut oil in a small pot on the stove.(Remember that coconut oil has a low burn temperature, so don’t stick it on high and treat it like butter.) If you’re a microwave person 45 second in the microwave should cut it.
  2. Add cacao powder, coconut flakes, vanilla, and sweetener of your choosing and stir.
  3. I usually chop up whole almonds in my Vitamix then add them directly to the chocolatey mess that’s in the bowl!
  4. Spoon into ice cube trays or a candy mould and freeze (this takes about 10-15 minutes)
  5. Enjoy! (or take them out of the ice cube trays and store in a ziplock baggie for easy access!)

I will update this with nutrition information soon. I have to get to work! 🙂



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