Sunday, October 28, 2012

Days 14-17

We all knew that my life was going to get crazy busy and my daily posts were going to stop. So I apologize that I packed 4 days into one post.

Day 14: Learn to write my name in Chinese. I would like to say that I have mastered my name in Chinese and I am signing my credit card receipts with it... But I am not. It is still cool to know how to write it.

Kate 凯特

Day 15: Take a dare from my students: eat Tajin seasoning straight out of the bottle.
So if you know kids, you know they go through these weird phases. One of these trends or phases always has to do with food. One of the most popular foods (if you can even call it that) are:
Flamin' Hot Cheetos. Kids beg, plead, and trade for these things!!
But strangely enough the "Cheeto obsession" has died down. The more recent one is eating Tajin seasoning:

My students eat it by the handful. I mean kids do weird stuff. So after confiscating my fair share of bottles. I decided to have a sit down with my students about how disruptive it is to be secretly eating seasoning during class. All they got out of the conversation was, "But Miss Kate, you gotta try it!". Oh brother.....
So at recess I broke down and was given a handful of it. All I could think was, what am I doing?!

I will spare you the agony of eating Tajin seasoning ALONE. But it is awful, if you eat it alone.

I have yet to put it on fruit (which apparently is amazing), but since I have about 5 bottles that I confiscated from my students, I am sure, I will try it at some point.

Day 16: Make up a secret handshake with my students.

If my students knew I was telling you.....uff I would be in trouble ;)

But in all seriousness, we are trying to build a great community environment in our classroom and so I decided to let my kids create a secret handshake that only our class knows.

We voted on what movements to do and if we had any sound affects (I put the kibosh on sound affects REAL fast!). We worked together, which to me was the most important part of the activity.
But, by the end we were all laughing, even my most resilient student was excited to do the handshake with me.
I say success!

Day 17: Take a mindfulness course.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation. It is a way to maintain calm awareness of the body and mind.

Mindfulness is often associated with Buddhism because it is one of the 7 factors of enlightenment. But pushing aside religion, I was introduced to mindfulness at school. I was told it would be really good for my students to practice, especially since we have an extremely full day. But before I could introduce it to my students, I would have to try it out first.
I did two forms of meditation, one focused on my body and releasing the tension and the second was focused on my breathing.
If I wasn't a believer before, I was definitely after. It was amazing. I felt much more calm and relaxed....
Next time my kids are running amuck in the classroom, I am just going to lay down and begin mindfulness:
Meditation, the state of being.
Oh I can imagine my student's faces now!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 13

You know you're an adult when you buy yourself an adult gift....

Before you think this is taking a turn for the worst. Let me clear the air.

I bought myself a watch, an actually nice watch. I know what you're thinking, really....? This is Kate's "new thing for the day?"

Yes, it is my thing of the day. I was in desperate need of a new watch.... so I decided to splurge and actually buy a watch.

And it's analog, which is very adult to me, since I have been accused of not being able to tell time because I choose to wear a digital watch. For years, I have used a digital watch, usually the sporty kind made by Polaris or Adidas. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see numbers verse looking at the hands on a watch.

But I was inspired to actually trade in the $30 watch for something that an adult would wear.

And yes I did refer to others as adults....even at 29 I still feel like a kid.

Day 13: Buy myself, my first adult watch (versus the sporty (digital) watches I have always worn)


May seem like a very simple buy. But for those who know me, a watch is a crucial part of my life... and the fact that I actually upgraded to an "adult" watch, rather than my sporty watch, is big step.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 12

Apparently, there is a huge zombie following.

I missed the memo.

But luckily, there was a Zombie crawl in Denver, so for all the days and nights I have avoided zombie movies and t.v shows, I was presented with thousands of people dressed as zombies.

Day 12: Attend a Zombie crawl

I managed to rope Lauren into going with me to this bloody fest. We weren't sure what to expect, but basically no words are needed. I will let the pictures do the talking.

Let the madness begin...


Zombie Gnomes

Cross-dressing, kilt wearing zombies....OK??!?
Take notice of the woman in blue.... 70 year old zombie.
I guess you are never to old to cut your clothes, throw some blood on your clothes and dress as a zombie. Kudos to her.

Zombies crossing the street....

Oh don't worry, there is a zombie crossing guard.

Day 11

What is worse, the deception that everything is going just fine and then being fired or knowing you are going to be fired before hand?

Whoa, whoa, whoa, before you get all worked up thinking I was fired... I wasn't.

But one of my dear friends at my school was.

Let's back up a month or two to paint the picture of a sad moment for me and a group of students who deserve a teacher like Shanna.

When I first started our professional development in July, everything on the outside looked wonderful. We basically "kumbuyad" to the point where we became a tight-knit group, especially the fourth grade team. It was Gretchen, Joanna and myself at the GVR location and Shanna, Hannah and Heather at the OAK location. As time passed, it was clear, Gretchen, Shanna, Hannah and myself were bonding. We weren't drinking the Kool-aide (often refers to the crazies at our school, who love it and think there is nothing wrong with our school environment). We were able to laugh at our crazy life. We had all thought this school was going to be an amazing place to work. Boy were we wrong.

Unfortunately, with each passing week, another staff member would leave. The first to go was Joanna, one of the fourth grade teachers, then it was Lisa, Karen... the list goes on.

But when Gretchen came to me and told me she was quiting, I was devastated. My friend, my confidant, was leaving. I managed to pep talk myself in to thinking everything was going to be OK.

I still had Shanna and Hannah, even though they were at OAK, I still had them.

Fast forward two weeks, I send Shanna an email, telling her that, I am so excited to see her for our weekly professional development.

But 10 minutes before our PD  is set to start, I receive a phone call from Shanna, "Kate please come outside, I need to speak to you. I am no longer allowed on school property".


I fly down the stairs and bolt out the front door.

I was met with Shanna's ever strong smile, but tears in her eyes. I knew, at that moment, I had lost another teaching partner. 

I cannot explain the dirty details of why she was fired, but basically we are asked to fit into these pretty boxes, where from the outside our teaching looks perfect because the walls look perfect. I will tell you the best thing about teaching, is not fitting into a perfect box. Teaching is messy. Kids are messy and you can't expert it to be perfect. This is especially true in the kind of neighborhood we teach in, where parents are in jail or selling drugs, or there are no parents just grandparents and brothers are in gangs or in a detention center, you know the list of a messy life.

Shanna is an amazing teacher. She was the teacher who took the messy lives of these kids, put them to the side and actually taught them something. She went above and beyond to help her students and at the end of the day because her room wasn't perfect, she lost her job.

Day 11: Help a friend who was fired, realize she is better than the "We look perfect on the outside" school.

Shots in honor of Shanna
Thank you to Shanna who reminded me that teaching is messy, kids are messy. But it is not about if your room looks perfect from the outside, it is about the students actually learning.

Day 10

Teaching has been something I have been dreaming about since I was a little kid. But more importantly, reading has been a life long love. I cannot remember a time when I wasn't curled up with a book somewhere.

Now as a teacher, my love for reading has shifted to getting to know more about children's literature and how to make my students better readers.

I happened to be reading one of my favorite profession books about literacy for 4th-8th grade. When I stumbled upon a page that said, "To be a better reading and writing teacher, you must continue YOUR learning."
This got me thinking about all the ways I can learn more about reading and writing.

Day 10: Join a literacy organization

So in hopes to be better educated for my students. I joined International Reading Association (

It gives me resources like lesson plans, podcast, books and journals for ways to be a better educator.

I am looking forward to learning more. We should be life long learners and at an early age, my parents displayed this to me. I am thankful I get to continue to learn on a daily basis.

Day 9

Maybe some of you do this, you go to a restaurant and you look at the menu, contemplating what to order. You find yourself wavering back and forth between a few different dishes. You ask your friends what they are getting. You hint at sharing a dish.... but no one really takes you up on the offer. And then you finally decide on one.
This took you 10 minutes,a lot of page flipping, the anxiety of getting "the wrong dish" and you're still uncertain if the dish you are about to order is the one you truly want.

Or maybe you can not relate and your thinking.... what is wrong with a person who does that?

Well, I will tell you, I am exactly that person. I could waiver for hours on what I am going to order at a restaurant.

So while at dinner for Chelsea's birthday, another creative blogger friend was telling a story how she has the same problem. Her solution: She told the waiter I don't care what you bring me, just bring me the best thing on the menu.

Of course the wheels starting turning, what a great thing for my project (especially since I was doing my typical "What do I order?")

Day 9: Tell the waitress to give me the best thing on the menu and don't tell me what it is.

So by the time the waitress came around, I was all set,

"I don't care what you bring me, but just bring me the best thing on the menu.... AND don't tell me what you're bringing me," I proudly said. But she just looked at me and about half way through my spiel, she was already writing with what I can only assume was "Don't care about your project. I get this stupid request all the time!" But she gave me a smile and wrote something down.

Here I am ordering.
So we began to guess what I was getting for dinner. Whitney and I guessed steak, since we were at a steakhouse and if our waitress was a smart, she would have given me the most expensive item on the menu.
Meghan and Stef guessed steak sandwich or a steak salad.

Now we played the waiting game.

Here comes our food....

I got chicken!!!
I was a little surprised she gave me such a simple dish. But it was delicious.
Truth: I tried Meghan's steak sandwich...she won. Here meal was better, but I didn't tell the waitress that. ;)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day 8

There is the saying "You don't have to like everyone, but you have to respect them." I often say this to my students. This saying applies to all, we don't necessarily like everyone, but we have to respect them.

Luckily, I work with some great people and I wanted to share with them how special I think they are.

Day 8: Write a note to a colleague telling them how much they mean to me.

I decided just one wasn't enough so I chose 2 people at my school that I just really wanted to share with them how much they mean to me.

The first, is one of our administrator coordinators, Jaci. She literally works her butt of each and everyday and doesn't get much recognition.

Our bonding moment, came when a student went missing. Turns out he went home instead of going to soccer practice. But as you can imagine, Jaci was running around trying to find this student. I jumped into action to do what I could. I honestly only made a few phone calls, but I was there for Jaci.

She later broke down in tears to me. It was a stressful situation, a child had gone missing and the last place they were seen was at school. It put an enormous pressure on the few staff member that were left at school, because we had to do all we could to find this child. (On a side note, this incident happened 1 day after they discovered the body of a 10 year old girl who had gone missing in Denver. This only added to the immense pressure and panic in our eyes).

After our stressful moment, she cried and then we laughed. So I wanted to tell her how special she is to me. Not only does she help me out, but she makes me laugh. I honestly could not enjoy my job as much, without her.

I call her Yaki and then we laugh in Spanish jajajajajaja
I also wrote to our dance teacher Mikey. Since he is a guy, he occasionally finds himself with a few of my boy students begging to hang with him (I told you he was cool). He is able to connect with some of my students, in the "I don't give a crap!" moment, where they are mad, frustrated and want nothing to do with me. But he also helps my students with their African drumming and always has a positive spin on life.
The other day he walked by my room, peeked in and said "You're cool Kate, you're cool." It just so happened, I was having a very tough moment and it gave me a pep in my step. I appreciated his kind words, more than I think he knew.
I am blessed with some amazing co-workers. It is an extremely hard school to work at. So at the end of the day I appreciate the people I work with.... well maybe not all, but I respect them. ;)

Day 7

When I think back to being a kid and painting in art class, I remember how my art teacher always said "No eating or drinking around the art... and don't dump over the water cup."

Those rules DEFINITELY didn't apply at Canvas and Cocktails.

Drinking wine + painting = a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday, especially since I have never done anything like this.

I just had to be careful not to dip my paint brush in my wine.... what a tragedy that would be!

Day 7: Go to a wine and painting class.

First things first, get a glass of wine and get the colors for our painting...
and when I said glass I meant bottle... only kidding.
After a glass of wine, we were ready to begin painting. There were two ways to go, listen to the teacher or do your own thing. 
So it was very clear early on who was type A and who was not....

Type A followed the instructor and listened to her directions of how to paint....

Type B did not follow directions and used their creative juices to flow.

I am type A: listened to the teacher, followed her instructions. Out of 7 of us, only 2 were type A and followed directions.

Me, following directions.

Lauren's painting on left and Chelsea's on the not following directions.

About half-way through they called all the birthday people up on stage to dance. Not sure why they chose the song "YMCA" by the Village People, but that was our song to dance to.

After a mid-workshop dance, it was back to finish the job.
Our final products. Love the differences!

 I am once again wowed by my friends. So happy to share one of my "new things projects" and my birthday with them.
Thanks to Lauren, Stef, Meghan, Mama Shuff, Chelsea and Tara for a wonderful birthday celebration.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 6

Day 6: Bake my grandmother's peanut butter cookie recipe.

It has been well over 20 years since the passing of my grandmother, but my memory of her sticks with me, like it was yesterday. She was a typical grandmother; sweet, loving, affectionate and very giving. My time with her was short, but very, very sweet.

One of my favorite things about her, was she loved to cook and bake. I do not ever remember not liking anything she cooked or baked for me. With my grandmother, it was always about food and love. She amazingly raised 4 boys and 1 girl, so needless to say she was always cooking for a crowd.

I came along later in her life, so by the time I was around 2 or 3 she had mastered baking. I don't exactly remember the day she asked me what my favorite cookie was, but every time I went to California to visit her, on my nightstand was a container of my favorite cookies: peanut butter.

Unfortunately, my grandma Seeley passed away much too early in my life and I was left with only a handful of memories, one of them being the cookies.

As the years passed by, I would think of those times and even share my memories of her with my friends and family. But never once actually baking my grandmother's recipe of my favorite cookie.

A few years ago, my sister, Jean-Marie compiled a book of her recipes and magically the recipe was at my fingertips.

But for some reason, I couldn't bring myself to bake them. I looked at the recipe, toyed with the idea of baking them, but never actually did it.

Until, this morning when Magdiel asked me what my thing for the day was going to be. I hadn't a clue as to what I was going to do.... then the story of the cookies on the nightstand popped into my head. Why don't I make my favorite cookies my grandmother used to make me?! It had been well over 20 years since I had eaten those delicious cookies.

It was decided, I was going to make her cookies...

Now all I needed were the ingredients and a little bit of grandma Seeley inspiration...

After a trip to the grocery store, we had all the ingredients.
Recipe book in hand...ready to channel my inner Margaret Seeley.
Mixed and ready for the oven.....Here we go!
Baked and ready to try...
Yep, they are delicious!
I wish I could say, my first bite took me back to my time with my grandmother, but it didn't. But they were as delicious as I remember. Not too peanut buttery, but the perfect amount.
The best part of baking them was thinking about my grandmother and sharing my stories of her with Magdiel. It was a special moment to finally eat "one of her cookies" so many years later. I hope she was smiling down on me.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Day 5

Day 5: Teach Magdiel how to carve a pumpkin

I think it is safe to say most Americans have taken part in some or all Halloween traditions. One of them, carving pumpkins. It is either a tradition you hate or love.
I am one who loves it.
I love the color of pumpkins.
I love the smell of them.
I love digging my hand into pumpkins and pulling out the pulp and seeds.
I love saving the seeds to bake later.
I love the challenge of carving pumpkins, but I mostly love the end result when we can all laugh at our accomplishments and cherish the differences in our pumpkins.

So when I mentioned carving pumpkins to Magdiel, he looked at me with this quizzical face. Of course, I do not know the words for 'carving a pumpkin' in Spanish. So before continuing on with my question of "Have you ever carved a pumpkin?" I first had to visit google translator.

With our language barrier solved, we headed for the grocery store to buy 2 carving kits, 2 pumpkins and a couple of beers (the beers were actually for my brother Kyle, who was our coaxed into being the photographer).

With pumpkins, carving kits and beers nearby, we were ready to begin.

Step 1: Clean out your pumpkin.

Step 2: Drink beer (looks like I am being a great teacher. I am more focused on the beer than my student) OOPS!

Step 3: Tape outline on pumpkin and get to work.....
Then work your ass for a final product!!
Drum roll please......

Our finished project. Magdiel likes to say that his is better. Obviously, the teacher can't focus on her art when she is teaching.

Magdiel's, on the left, is welcoming all into the house, while mine, on the right is throwing up.
Real Classy!!

Day 4

Day 4: Go see an Improv show

Who knew what kind of ride I was in for? I had absolutely no expectations of what was going to happen. But I became a little nervous it wasn't going to be a great show when we sat down and I looked around.... 20 people in the entire auditorium....including us 5.

Now I should probably add" No judging" to the list of things to try for a day, but I couldn't help it. It usually doesn't look good from a newbies perspective when there aren't very many people in the building. But everyone looked so excited, so I thought, here we go.

Ok, ok, ok, there is the age old saying "don't judge a book by its cover". I wasn't judging.... oh who are we kidding, of course I was.

But 5 minutes in, my cheeks hurt so bad I was physically holding them to prevent my face from laughing more.
I was doubled over at times laughing so hard at the silliest skits. But of course part of the fun was to look over at Magdiel, Stef, Meghan and her mom and to see them laughing. Honestly, there is nothing better than to see your friends truly happy.

If there is anything I get out of this project, I hope to continue to see my friends and family enjoying the ride along with me.

Thanks Meghan and Mama Shuffelton, Stef and Magdiel for a wonderful evening of laughter. Day 4 complete.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 3

Day 3: Video tapped formal observation in my classroom.

As most of you know, I work at a charter school in northeast Denver. I won't go into the grimy details of my everyday life. But needless to say, they have high expectations and a workload that has me working from 6:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m.... every night.

Today, was my first formal observation as a teacher. 4 years into teaching and I have never had a principal videotape me.

I have had my mother videotape me in Honduras. I have had countless people walk in and out of my room (I swear my classroom is the 7-11 of the school), I taught in a classroom with a half-built wall where everyone heard me teach. But never actually had a formal observation, complete with video.
Luckily, all of my other exposures of people in and out of my classroom made me much more comfortable with a video camera pointed at me.
But all went well...or so I feel. I still have post-conference with my principal to breakdown the video. I guess that's when the real nerves will kick in. Until then, the magic continues inside the classroom, helping my students day in and day out. 

But each day I grow more and more attached to my class. They are a handful and I am forced to dig deep at times to remember why I am teaching them. But I heard the best thing I could have ever heard today. The special education teacher (we call her an interventionist, but for my non-education people that might confuse you), said to me, "Wow, Kate, you have the most challenging class, but of all the teachers at this school, I think you handle them the best."

Hands down best compliment. I have a tough bunch and her words kept me afloat today.

Glad to have her at my school. :)

It is my hope that I can upload my teaching video for all you folks who have 50 minutes to kill to watch me in action teaching.

Check back in a day or two when I have access to that video. Otherwise stay tuned for day 4.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 2

Day 2: Help the People of (Myanmar) Burma

As you can imagine, I have had the fortune of having amazing and inspiration friends in my life. One of them, Joshua Montoya, just so happens to exude positivity and inspiration.

He is currently working on a project called the Forgotten Foundation, which helps refugee families of Burma who have fled to Thailand, due to an ongoing civil war in their country. This truly saddening story of a civil war greatly impacted Josh and his friends to take action and help these people. In an effort to bring education and help to these refugees, they started a foundation. It has been amazing to hear about how Josh and his friends have traveled back and forth to Thailand to bring awareness and help to these refugees. They have helped give the Karen people running water, they have built a school and they are bringing awareness to the awful civil war in Burma.

Day 2: Donate to the Forgotten Foundation, to not only help my friend Josh bring awareness to this awful war, but help the people of Burma have a life they so deserve.

Kickstarter -


You're a Backer!
The Forgotten (Documentary of the Karen People)

You're a backer of
The Forgotten (Documentary of the Karen People)

by Joshua Montoya


Check out their story... maybe even join the bandwagon and donate.

Thanks Josh for being an inspiration. I wish you the best of luck.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 1

Hello 29!!! 
It is officially project time, 1 new thing a day for 365 days. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was in Vegas with some of my best friends chatting about this project.
There might have been drinks and wigs happening while this conversation took place.... but at no time did that affect my decision to take on this adventure. ;)

So flash forward a year and a half later and I am as ready as I can be to slowly say good-bye to my 20's and hello to my 30's!

I asked many of my friends and family for recommendations of new ideas, projects, and activities that I could do over the next year. I thankfully received a great number and I can't wait to share my adventures with you over the next year.

So let the games begin....

Day 1: Put date plans in my boyfriends hands. (My idea....since I was told numerous times by my family how controlling and bossy I am. Hey I can't help it, I am a teacher. I have to be controlling 8 hours out of my day. Sorry if it spills over into my personal life).

I, therefore, relinquished all control to mi amor. First decision he had to make, where to go for dinner. He went for an American classic, The Cheesecake Factory, where the menu is 10 pages long. It was quite funny watching him squirm trying to make a decision for what I would eat for dinner. But luckily he knew, I wouldn't put up a fuss if he ordered chicken.

Successful dinner order, check.
Next decision, dessert or no dessert? Who goes to the Cheesecake Factory and doesn't order cheesecake? Now I didn't say a word but maybe my eyes said, "Order the cheesecake or walk home!"
Look who ordered us cheesecake. ;)

We drank coffee, ate cheesecake and enjoyed each others company... and I wasn't bossy or controlling. Mission accomplished. 

I had a wonderful birthday. It was filled with a mountain of homemade cards from my students, hugs, wonderful well wishes and it was all topped off by a control free dinner and dessert. 

If you ask me, 29 is off to a great start.