Sunday, January 29, 2017

Would You Rather Running Survey

Another Sunday, another survey. And this one, surprise, has to do with running! I promise I’ll get my hands on some other types of surveys soon. But for now, enjoy a look into my running preferences. I’m sure none of them will surprise you.


I do not handle the heat (and likely the humidity that comes along with it) super well. I start sweating almost instantly, so while I hate being cold at the start of a run, I heat up pretty quick. Though 30 degrees might be a little on the chilly side for this Texas girl.

I’m not much of a beer gal, but I had a terrible experience at the one and only Color Run I ever ran. The weather was pretty horrible, it started almost an hour later than planned, and there was no organization. The colors were all within half a mile of one another, and I immediately delete any and all emails containing the subject “Color Run.”

Urban setting, 100%. I tried my first trail run this past July, and to say it was a miserable experience is no exaggeration. I like running through neighborhoods and around parks and by restaurants. It’s what I’m used to, and call me a Grinch, but I get tired of looking at the same trees and bushes for so many miles.

To be honest, I really only remember to put on Body Glide before a half marathon distance or longer. So, I think forgetting to put on deodorant would be the real crime.

Both of these sound pretty terrible, as I have a hard enough time taking Clif Shot Bloks or Jelly Beans during a race, but I guess I would go with bacon. I don’t think it would sit quite as heavy in my stomach.

I guess too big. I could always wear extra thick socks. Wearing shoes that are too small is just asking for pain and blisters and loss of toenails.

I’ve done both, and I much prefer the big city races. I thrive on the crowd’s enthusiasm and encouragement, and I really enjoy having other runners in close proximity throughout the entire race. Which is strange because I don’t actually enjoy training with others, but I enjoy the camaraderie that comes from a big race.

I cannot stomach the idea of raw fish. Not the night before a normal day, and most certainly not the night before a big race. And as for the curry, I would just be sure to lay off the sauce. Besides, can’t hate the carbs, right?

Well, seeing as I love traveling, I jump on any excuse to combine traveling and running. And I think it’s safe to say that any race I travel for is going to be more challenging than any race I would choose to run in the flatlands of Houston.

Washington D.C.
Savory. Weirdly enough, I’m never super hungry immediately after finishing a race, and I typically want something that tends to err on the healthy side of things.

And with that, I’m off to go coach a volleyball tournament. Today I’m thankful that it’s just a few miles down the road as opposed to on the other side of the city. Check in with y’all soon!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

How Do You Like to Run Survey

Happy Sunday! Okay, today's weather is pretty much perfect. Where was this last Sunday? But I won't talk about that anymore. I've got a survey to share with you guys, and though I'm pretty sure I've done this survey before, it's been a while, so I felt as though it would be okay to do again. There are only so many surveys out there, okay?

1. Would you rather run along a beach path or on a mountain trail?
Hmm, I wouldn’t want to actually run ON the beach (that’s hard!), but running alongside it, absolutely. Normally I’m a mountains over beach kind of gal, but the altitude is really hard for me to deal with. I tried running while at Crooked Creek in Colorado, and I made it all of five minutes before having to stop and walk. The view was pretty, though.

2. If you could choose the flavor of Gatorade at your next race’s aid stations, what would it be?
Lemon-Lime or Glacier Cherry.

3. If I gave you a $100 gift card to a running store, what would be the first thing that you would purchase with it?
A new pair of kicks, duh! I go through running shoes like crazy, especially now that I’ve learned the importance of having good shoes in which to run. They can truly make all the difference. And there is nothing a new pair of running shoes can’t fix.

4. Do you prefer to follow a training plan or wake up and decide then how far and how fast you want to run?
I thrive on plans and to-do lists, and running is no exception to that. I have to know how many miles and at what pace I’m supposed to run, otherwise, all of my runs will turn into 6-7 mile easy runs through Hermann Park. The training plan I’m currently on is kicking my butt, but I’ve also seen a ton of progress. So I think I’ll stick with it.

5. Would you rather start your run with the uphill and end on the downhill or start your run with the downhill and end with the uphill?
Surprisingly enough, I don’t do downhill very well. I tend to lose control of my body, and it really hurts my shins, probably because of the angle of impact. I haven’t run enough hilly courses to really be able to answer this question, but I do know the monster hill at mile 12 of the Austin Half is enough to make me choose starting with the uphill and ending on the downhill.

6. When you can’t run, what type of cross-training do you choose to do?
Swimming or biking. The one thing I don’t like about this training plan I’m on is that it doesn’t allow a ton of time for other types of exercise. I mean, it does, but I tend to have to use that time for other things. Maybe in the summer I’ll get that rockin’ one-piece tan back.

7. What is your preference —> Out and back, point to point, or loop runs?
I loathe loop runs, and I don’t love out and back runs. So I guess the only option I have left is point-to-point runs. I guess the caveat with this type of run is that you have to have a way to get back to your starting point without running there, but hey, isn’t that what Uber is for?

8. If you could recommend ANY running related item to a new runner, it would be a—>
Good pair of running shoes. Seriously. Go to a Luke’s Locker type place and get a pair that is perfect for you.

9. Do you ever see any wild animals while out on your runs?
Well, aside from those Grizzly Bears that run rampant through public schools, no. I did used to see a random raccoon or peacock when I lived with my parents and ran through their neighborhood.

10. Ever gotten lost while out on a run?
Oh, yes. Especially when I lived in Austin. I would take a new turn, unsure of where it would take me, and I would find myself miles away from where I wanted to be. Whenever I run in a city in which I’m traveling, I tend to get lost, but I kind of like it that way. It allows me to find some hidden treasures.

11. If you could have one meal waiting and ready for you each time you got home from a run for the next 30 days, what would that meal be?
MAN. What a question. This is going to sound pretty simple, but yogurt with some sort of fix-ins – either granola or chocolate chunks (whoops) – but it’s refreshing, it’s enough to fill me up, and it’s not too heavy that I feel like I’ve undone all the good I just did. Either yogurt, or a Local Foods Gaden Sammie salad. It really never gets old.

12. Capris or short: What do you run in most often?
Living in Houston, always shorts. Even on the rare occasion that it gets cold enough for pants, I start sweating approximately three steps into my run, and while I may be warm at the starting line if I wear capris, I immediately regret it about a mile into the run.

13. At what mile (or how many minutes) into your run does your body start to feel like it is warming up and ready to go?
It different from run to run. Sometimes I take a few steps and I know it’s going to be a good run. Other days, it takes me almost three miles to really hit my stride. Typically, it takes me about a mile to know how a run is going to go.

Barcelona Running Club
14. What do you do with your key when you run?
I put it in the handy little pocket in my shorts. When I used to drive to my favorite running spot, I would tie my car key to my shoelace.

15. If you could relive any race that you have done in the past, which one what it be?
I’ve enjoyed so many of the races that I’ve run. The Austin Half marathon will always hold a special place in my heart, as that is the race that ignited my love of running. I loved San Francisco (hello, hills!), and running through Houston will always mean a lot to me.

16. What type of run is your least favorite type of run?
Thursday tempo runs KILL me. It’s like I enjoy them, but then a lot of the time I really don’t. I enjoy the HUGE sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish a good one, though.

17. What has been your biggest motivation lately to get out the door to get your run on?
January 14th, 2018. That, and I know I'll hear about it if I have to report back that I didn't do that day's scheduled run.

18. When you go for a run, do you leave right from your front door or do you drive somewhere to start?
I typically leave right from my front door. Occasionally I’ll feel like changing it up a bit, and I’ll drive over to Buffalo Bayou or Memorial Park. I’ve got a great running path right near my apartment, though, so it’s pretty rare that I change it up.

19. When running in daylight, are sunglasses a must or an annoyance?
I’ve never really worn sunglasses when I run, so I don’t know whether I would love them or hate them. I don’t wear glasses, so it might take me awhile to get used to having something on my face.

20. When you get tired, what keeps you from quitting?
The sense of accomplishment I feel after pushing through a tough run. And the disappointment I don’t want to feel after quitting. 

And on that note, I'm off to get my run on. And then hopefully be super productive so that I can relax with a movie tonight. I rarely go to the movies, but there are about five movies out right now that I want to see. I saw Hidden Figures last night, and WOW, I can't stop thinking about it. It was absolutely beautiful, and I highly recommend every human being go see it. Have a good one!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fail Once, Fail Twice, Fail Many a Time

It has been a rainy couple of days here in Houston. We're talking two-hour rain delay, it took me two tries to get to school Wednesday rainy. Actually, all of Houston and Fort Bend ISD were on weather delays that day, and many of my students didn’t even make it to school. Whether it was because they legitimately couldn't make it in, or whether they heard the absence would be excused, I don't know. I do know that all HISD employees were encouraged to get to school at the regular time. Because there are secret back roads for employees that aren’t affected by the flooding, you know?

Anyway, Wednesday’s really chill day at school allowed me to be pretty productive in terms of crossing a few things off of my school to-do list, and it also allowed me to sit down and start in on a little bit of writing. And thinking. And processing. And Google Cardboard experimenting.

But I digress. I knew I was going to have to sit down and write a race recap eventually, because for me, writing is a way to work through my thoughts. And I had a lot of them following this past Sunday’s race. I went into this half marathon after almost six months of pretty solid training. Now, don’t get me wrong, not every run was great, far from it, but in the grand scheme of things, I felt as though the work I had put into this training season was of a pretty good effort. This was the first half marathon in which I had actually trained with a real goal time in mind. My runs were planned for that particular time, and my successes and failures were, again, based on how close I came to a particular pace.

So, imagine my frustration when we get an email just days before the race warning us that this race was now a “yellow flag” on the Event Alert System scale. Meaning runners should slow their pace and not expect to PR. The humidity was going to be at 96% at the start of the race, the temperature approaching 70 degrees, and it wasn’t going to get any better as the day went on. I was hearing and reading all of this, but was I really internalizing it? No. In my mind I was telling myself that I had trained for this sub-1:45 time, and I really don’t care what the weather is like, I’m going to get it. If I think positive and I have confidence in my training, surely the humidity won’t get to me.

Humidity slows my pace significantly
Because the humidity has never bothered me before (sarcasm). I’m typically a warm-weather fan, but temperatures in the high 40’s and low 50’s – that’s my ideal running weather. Humidity also really affects me, so I’m not sure why I thought January 15th, 2017 would be the dawn of a new era. Regardless, I went into this race feeling nervous, but still fairly confident. I was told that I may not get that sub-1:45 with the weather the way it was – I can – but that I should be really pleased with a 1:47 or 1:48. I was cautioned, by my coach and by many others, that the most important thing would be not starting out too fast.

So what do I do? Start out too fast. Much too fast. My first mile was what my last few miles should have been had I done this correctly. And I honestly tried to slow myself down. I didn't dodge and weave as I normally do at the start of a race, using up unnecessary energy and logging more tenths of a mile than I should. But I would look at my watch and I was surprised to see how fast I was going even after I thought I had slowed. I felt comfortable at the pace I was running, and I felt pretty good through about mile 8. And that's when my legs started feeling it. And that's when my pace started slowing. And that's when I told myself I would really slow it down for a couple of miles so that once I hit mile 10, I could turn it back on and finish really strong. I still had hope of hitting that sub-1:45 time, but I would have to really rock those last three miles.

Not rocking the last three miles
And then I hit mile 10 and it was all I could do not to walk. I started feeling nauseous, I got a little bit dizzy, and to be honest, I can't really remember much of miles 10-13. I remember running by some fast food restaurant that just about did me in. I remember not yet completing mile 11 when my Garmin hit 1:32, and that’s when I was mentally out of it. There was really no way I was going to hit my 1:45 goal, and I had next to no confidence about even coming in before 1:48. I was pretty physically done, and I was clearly mentally done, too. I crossed the finish line at 1:50.24, and I recognize that a time like that is nothing to be ashamed of. I did pout about it a little bit, I sat down and talked it out almost first thing Tuesday morning with two - very wise, very knowledgeable, very goal-driven - fellow runners, and what I’m most frustrated about is the way I shut down mentally.

Educators that run
Yeah, I’m upset about my lack of pacing, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a terribly difficult fix. It’s the mental aspect that isn’t sitting well with me. It’s the “what if” factor. It’s the “did I leave anything out on the course” factor. It’s the fact that I didn’t seem to believe in myself and my training when it mattered the most.

If I can maintain this pace for 26 miles, I'll be golden
I've mentioned on the blog before, I am sure, how much I dislike failing. I would even go so far as to say I fear it. Anyone made the FEARLESS connection yet? Anyway, I don't handle failure particularly well, nor do I take losing lightly. BUT, I’m also a fairly positive person, much to the amusement of others, and I think there was a lot of good to come of it. I think it’s kind of a wake-up call for me, really. See, I preach and preach about how I believe it’s such a good thing for my students to experience failure. Because they can learn from it and grow from it and use it as their motivation. So, I say all of these things in relation of the high school freshmen I work with, but here I am feeling sorry for myself for missing my goal time by five minutes. And I could go on and on about the parallels between education and running, but for the sake of people who are not in the field of education, I’ll stick to the 26-line expository essay.

One of the statements we ask our students to respond to each year is, "Write an essay explaining whether or not failure can strengthen a person." And every year I get some really fantastic essays. I love reading their stories of triumph, and how they, or someone they know, rose above failure. And one of the most commonly read phrases is how failure is a motivator. And that’s something I wrote about here. And that’s exactly my thought process going forward. As I look ahead to the next race I plan to run – a half marathon in Portland, Oregon, and ultimately, the Chevron Houston Marathon next January, I'm not going to forget this particular run. I'm not going to forget the disappointment I felt as I crossed the finish line. I'm going to let it motivate me to put everything I've got into every run. No excuses, no sob stories, no pity parties. It's not supposed to be easy, which is true of so much more than running. Failure(s) make the victory that much sweeter, and from here on out, I’m going to run humbly, hungry (literally and figuratively), grateful, and focused.

Ultimately, I love running. I love the freedom I feel when I’m running. I love the “me” time I get when I’m running. I love the endorphins and joy that come from it. I love the discipline it has taught me. I love the grit. And one less-than-ideal race – because Lord knows there will probably definitely be more of them – is not going to take any of that away. Running, or any sport or activity, should never define me. I love having goals. I love meeting those goals, but ultimately, what I love the most is the feeling that comes from meeting a goal after knowing what it took to get there. It's all about the journey. It's not about race day. Well, it is. But it's about the work you put in the days, weeks, months, years leading up to race day. And I'm ready to get after it. And I've absolutely got my eye on the Boston prize. Whether that's 2019, or 2029. But for now, I'm going to enjoy a few Garmin-free runs, and just run the pace at which my body feels comfortable. And take time to remember why I run, and all that it has taught me about life.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Half Marathon Sunday

Happy Sunday, all! I was hoping to get this up and running a little bit earlier than right now, but this is the first time I've really sat up since arriving home from the race. The 96% humidity hit me HARD, and I am finally, finally beginning to feel a little bit better. I won't go into the details, but we'll just say that I didn't quite reach my goal. And I could blame it on the weather, but I can moreso blame it on my pacing. Or lack thereof. I hit a wall at mile 10 and never really recovered. And I didn't totally tank, but I am a little bummed about my performance. The race itself was as fabulous as ever, though. The volunteers and spectators make this race happen, and I am so grateful for each one of them. And it hasn't stopped me from registering for next year's race. It also opened my eyes to the fact that, if I really, really plan on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, I've got to fully commit and fully focus on the task ahead of me. I get a couple of days to pout about it, a couple of days to rest, but you better believe I'm going to lace up my shoes and go after it again. With a new mentality and a fresh determination.

1. I’m happiest when… I am running (or walking my dog).

2. …Especially if it… is 60 degrees and sunny. With no humidity. 

3. I’ve always wanted to… learn how to surf.

4. My family and I… enjoy playing one another in Wheel of Fortune and Chain Reaction. Seriously. We bring the party with us.

5. I was a terrible… needlepointer. If that’s even a word. Once upon a time I was in Girl Scouts, and one of our meetings was a lesson on needlepoint. Our instructor, without even asking if anyone in the group was left-handed, told us that lefties have a harder time with needlepoint – for whatever reason, but I can’t remember. Anyway, I evidently had a very fixed mindset in the 3rd grade, and as a result, I failed miserably at this needlepoint lesson. I also quit Girl Scouts pretty soon after that.

6. My first job was… a volleyball scorekeeper at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church.

7. I could eat the Garden Sammie (with chicken) from Local Foods everyday. Either that or the salad version. Local Foods has my heart. And a lot of my money.

8. I wish I could… sing. I envy those who can carry a tune, as I’ve got not a musical bone in my body.

9. I was born on the same day as… Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Bobby Brown, and Babe Ruth are among some of the most prominent. And in case anyone wants a countdown, that’s three weeks from today.

10. My all-time favorite film is… The Breakfast Club or Remember the Titans. I’m also a huge fan of Dead Poets Society.

11. I do a pretty mean… left-handed serve.

12. I’m still mad… that I didn’t make my senior yearbook quote “Life’s tough. Get a helmet.” My mom told me I would be mad at myself in ten years if that went to print. Almost seven years later and I still have regrets about the fact that I used a cheesy Walt Disney quote.

13. I met my husband dog… in Dimebox, Texas. I remember every moment of that sweet drive home.

14. I always knew I wanted… to be a teacher. It’s been my dream job since the 3rd grade.

15. I’m not afraid to… skydive. I did it the day after my 18th birthday, and I would gladly do it again!

16. I make the best… Slutty Brownies. My students had a field day with them. Both with the name and the taste.

17. I have almost absolutely no… respect for those who treat others as their inferiors.

18. I always cry when… I watch videos where soldiers return home and surprise their family members. I have never once managed to keep a dry eye while watching one of these homecomings.

19. I’m an avid runner nowbut I still have days where I have to give myself a pep talk in order to get out the front door.

20. I spent two years living in a house with nine girls. Best two years of my life, but I would never do it again.

21. I wish my … students would learn to love reading and writing, and not see it simply as a means to passing a test.

22. At 5, I was deeply in love with Spaghettio’s and apple juice. Every. Single. Meal. I was in the running for world’s pickiest eater.

23. I believe if people practiced daily gratitude and showed a little grace, the world would be a better place.

24. I can’t stand… slow walkers. I’ve got places to go and people to see, people!

25. Whenever Boy Meets World is on, I’ll watch it.

And with that, I'm off to pick up something to eat for lunch. Slash dinner. And then I'm going to sit down and watch football. Go Pack Go!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Changes Made

In my head, this was a short snipped for a “Things I’m Loving Friday” post, but then I started writing, and I realized that I just have far too much to say. I’m not sure why I feel so compelled to write this, except for the fact that, as an educator, and as someone who works with high school students on a daily basis, I really can’t keep quiet about these standardized tests that we are forced to administer each year.

Let me start out by saying that this post is mainly for my educator friends. So, some of you may want to stop reading right here. But for those of you who are interested in the thoughts of a relatively new teacher, read on.

There is so much that I love about teaching, but if there's one thing that kills my soul, it's teaching the STAAR. For those of you not familiar with the Texas public school system, the STAAR is a curriculum-based standardized test that every student, beginning in the third grade, takes in order to “advance to the next grade” or to be eligible to graduate high school. There are STAAR tests for math, reading, writing, science, and history, depending on the students’ grade. And before I go off about the absurdity of these standardized tests, let me state that I understand the need for them, and I also recognize that many professions require you to take and pass some sort of exam, so it's pretty important that our students are exposed to a test-taking environment. I had to take two tests to become teacher certified. If I decide to go to grad school, which I would one day like to do, I'm looking the GRE square in the face. My medical school friends studied for the beast of the MCAT, and have also taken some pretty grueling exams over the past couple of years. My friend in law school is about to sit for the BAR exam in a couple of months, and another one of my friends sat through this seven-hour CFA exam in which they weren’t even allowed to have water in the testing room. I get it. These tests are a thing. And teachers and students both need to be held accountable. Otherwise, who knows what might go down in the classroom. There have to be standards, and I have no problem with that.

Do I think it makes sense that the English 1 STAAR test, taken by 14-and-15-year-old high school freshmen, is longer than the SAT or ACT? No. Do I think these kids are over tested? Yes. Do I think the STAAR is necessarily the best way to see that our students have mastered the English 1 curriculum? Not really. In a perfect world, students could showcase something that they’re proud of. Something that they’ve been working on that combines their talents and interests with reading comprehension and writing skills. I’m not much older than many of the students that I teach, but it’s a completely different world from when I was in high school. These kids are true 21st century students, and we’ve got to cater to that. If my students could turn in some of the things they’ve produced – their Adobe Spark This I Believe Essays, or their Hero Research Projects, for example, I think these TEA people would be more than impressed. My students have some really incredible skills, and I don’t think they’re properly measured by a 26-line expository essay and multiple choice questions over some pretty inaccessible passages.

Anyway, the reason I’m going on this rant is because we received word yesterday morning, as my students were busy writing a short answer response, that there will be no short answer responses on this year's STAAR test. I told my kids to recycle the lined boxes I had just handed each one of them, as they will no longer be needed.

My first thought when I saw the email about the fact that the short answer responses have been taken off the test? Pure elation. For pretty selfish reasons, at first. See, I really don't like the short answer responses. I struggled with them when I was in high school, I don't feel as though I teach them very well, and I loathe grading them. Give me a stack of essays to grade any day of the week. My second thought was that, hey, it's January. This test should already be written, printed, and locked in a warehouse somewhere, right? My second-and-a-half thought was that, okay, it's JANUARY. This would have been nice to know in, say, August, when we were mapping out the year. We have already written quite a few short answer responses, and as I mentioned above, my students were in the process of writing one when I checked my email. Is all of that just time wasted? And honestly, I really don’t think it is. I absolutely believe that the skill of reading an article or passage or story or poem and being able to think critically about it, back up that thought with textual evidence and then analyzing or explaining it is an extremely valuable skill to have. In my opinion, that shows true understanding of a text. My problem is not with what the short answer response is asking us to do. My problem with these short answer responses is that our students were limited to a TEN-LINE box in which to complete this analysis. And if they write outside the box, forget it. The graders won’t even see it. I told my students this when I was first introducing the concept, and one students raises his hand and says, “But aren’t we always told to think outside the box?” Touché. And I don’t find ten lines to be enough room to truly think outside the box. Especially when the titles of the stories alone take up an entire line.

It’s the fact that we were asking our students to make these deep connections, but you better write small if you want your brilliant thoughts to fit inside the box. It’s the fact that if our students took a risk by not giving the “cookie cutter” answer the graders are looking for, they risk receiving a poor score.

And I understand that it’s a matter of time and money. If I let some of my kids have all the paper their hearts desired, they would write pages and pages and pages. The graders don’t have time for that. And they probably don’t want to sit through hours of recorded video about what these kids believe in. Or who these students look up to and why. They should take the time to do these things, but I get it. There’s not enough money to pay people to read and grade more than they already do. And I don’t have a solution to this, but what if the way our kids were evaluated and deemed “ready” changed?

My first year of teaching, I was absolutely terrified to open the email that said we had received that year’s STAAR scores. I knew how hard I had worked that year, and I knew how hard (most of) my students had worked, but as that was my first year, I figured this document was going to tell me how good of a job I had really done. The last thing I wanted was to feel as though I had failed my kids by not teaching them the skills they supposedly needed, and I really didn’t need to feel as though I was a worse teacher than I already thought. Though no one ever said these words to me, I felt as though my job was riding on how my kids did on this test. And that’s a horrible feeling. Because I see growth in so many of my students that may or may not shine through on this one five-hour test.

These tests are a bummer. They place so much emphasis on how a child performs on one test, on one morning (and afternoon because we’re talking about five hours, here) of the school year. It doesn't take into consideration the fact that the student may not feel well. It doesn't take into consideration that a students’ parents had a huge argument the night before, and he or she is carrying that into the test. It doesn't take into consideration a lot of factors that really could affect a child's ability to do his or her best. And the reality is, that could happen on any number of important days. But to put that much pressure on a high school freshman?

I don’t know how many of you have seen this article floating around the Interwebs – if you’re friends with any teachers on Facebook, my guess is that at least one of them probably shared it – but it hits the nail on the head. This author had two of her poems appear on the 7th and 8th grade STAAR test, and she couldn’t answer some of the questions about her OWN poems. No one consulted her when it came time to write the test questions. No one asked her why she wrote it. And we won't even talk about the fact that it wasn't what I would call the most uplifting poem (the author says so, too!) But hey, this is just the most important test you'll take, but do you really need any extra encouragement?

There are some really cool materials and applications out there, but sometimes I feel as though I have to pass them by, or say, “Maybe after the STAAR I can experiment with that,” because I feel as though I’ve got to get my kids ready to take this test. And we try and make it as fun and engaging as possible. But come on. Above all, I want my students to love learning. I want them to be curious, and I don’t want them to see reading and writing as something boring, or something that is only done while sitting at a desk. I don't want them to ever not know the joy of reading something that you want to read. I don't want them to see writing as a formula. But I can see it in my students’ faces when I hand out yet another multiple choice practice packet, or when they sit down to write yet another 26-line expository essay. And you better not think write outside the box.