Tuesday, June 27, 2017

DIY recipe

First, watch one or two YouTube clips. Next, mistrust video learning, so browse a few pages of home-improvement books at the library. Confirm most of what you watched online. Draw up a vague shopping list of necessary supplies. Head to the hardware store and spend at least an hour, dizzyingly considering the pros and cons of products for stripping wood finishes, the relative merits of competing stain brands, the incremental arrays of sand-paper grains, just the right brushes for the job, and so forth. Tell a parade of employees who ask if they can help you that you're doing fine. Return home, exhausted and amply equipped.

Lay down newspaper in the work areas because you're marginally responsible. Stir stripping goop a paranoid amount and brush on. Wait. Scrape off the goop along with (most of) the former finish. Discover, through trial and error, the sweet spot that achieves this purpose without gouging the wood. Wait again for surface to dry. Remove lingering bits of tenacious finish with three different flavors of sand paper. Not only does this buff out many gouges, you'll learn it also opens the wood for subsequent stain absorption. Vacuum up sandy residue. Brush on wood conditioner, which will promote even staining. Wait while conditioner dries. Brush on stain. Wait for more drying time before applying second coat.
Now the big wait: over night for stain to dry thoroughly before applying finish.
The next day at dawn, three thin layers of finish go on, requiring at least two hours of drying between each. (Incidentally, this makes a fine excuse to read, which will help you put a dent in any magazine piles lying around.)

And the payoff, from before:
To after:


That unsightly hole in the screen will be gone soon when the window is replaced to do its refurbished sill justice. That, by the way, will be a job for professionals.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bubbling up

I'm in the middle of reading The Filter Bubble, written by Eli Pariser and published in 2011. It's about the consequences -- both intended and not -- of technology that increasingly personalizes experiences for users. So far, I've highlighted a few juicy quotations such as:

  • "[W]hat is good for consumers is not necessarily good for citizens." (18)
  • "[M]edia that prioritize importance over popularity or personal relevance are useful--even necessary." (75)
  • "Innovation requires serendipity." (96)

And speaking of serendipity... On an unexpected drive today, I heard a radio item featuring Mr. Pariser. Turns out he's the co-founder and CEO of Upworthy.

Now I'm trying to discern if this is a case of "If you can't beat them, join them" or whether Pariser envisioned Upworthy in its hey-day as a filter-bubble busting site. Or perhaps it's just that much can change in six years.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Catch my drift(s)

I rode my bike in the Rockies yesterday, and it was lovely. Mostly. Brilliant sunshine and gusty winds insured that the day sparkled. At the highest elevations, snow patches still stood out against the dark peaks while scattered wildflowers splashed colors down lower. Temperatures in the 70s meant streams gushed with run-off.

I picked a stretch of the Colorado Trail that I had ridden before, which meant I started pedaling up a dirt road to access the trail. About an hour later, I hooked into single-track and started a stouter climb, happy for the trees's shelter from the breeze. A thrilling, jouncy descent brought me to a bridge and across a creek. I knew that meant more climbing in order to escape that drainage. What I hadn't anticipated was how high I'd have to go. As the trail crossed 11,000 feet in elevation and curved around a ridge to a cooler, shadier aspect, snow patches started to appear with more frequency. Drifts of varying sizes encroached on the trail. Footprints and tread marks told me I wasn't the first person to cross these hurdles. The next hour was a grunt, offering short, dry trail stretches between squishy obstacles that necessitated carrying my bicycle. I felt enough frustration to consider turning back, but made enough progress to press on until the aspect and elevation changed in my favor.

Lesson mostly learned: While being in the right place at the right time can deliver abundant joy, a few subtle changes (say: direction and elevation) can send that moment sideways, toggling those rights to wrongs. At the time, the stubborn Capricorn in me offered up a silent serenity prayer, then kept pedaling; or walking; or, in a few chilly cases, post-holing.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Something old/new/borrowed/blue

The #sunchatbloggers are a loose affiliation of reflective educators and, yesterday, one of them (Marilyn) suggested devoting blog space to musing about the school year's end. I'm going to combine her inspiration with the weekly Two Writing Teachers invitation and one old-saw structure to package four slices in one.

Old - I'm an avid reader who, for a long time, has aimed to champion choice reading with the middle-school students I teach. The recently concluded school year was the second in a row that I made a concerted effort to bolster what I value with time. Students started each class reading something they chose for at least 10 minutes, making for a pleasant soft opening to the period and affording me the chance to check in with a few readers each day. In year-end feedback, many students told me they value this time, too.

New - I took cues from several in my professional learning network and experimented with new grading/feedback dynamics in 2016-17. Rather than following a more conventional rhythm of tests and writing assignments within prescribed units, students continually updated an electronic portfolio in which they justified their mastery of course standards. Students could draw on our work together as proof and also from reading, writing, speaking efforts they made in other classes. My responses involved confirming their mastery evidence, coaching them singly or in groups toward needed next steps, or planning whole-class follow-up when warranted. Grades were derived quarterly from the ratio of standards mastered and confirmed. This likely counted as one of my riskiest endeavors as an educator, and it proved an uncomfortable leap for many--me included! By March, feedback from some students, parents, and the principal necessitated that we navigate back to more familiar ground. That, too, was a new experience.

Borrowed - Students and I cribbed several gamification moves this school year, playing Breakout EDU in actual and digital forms. These days palpably lifted the classroom energy. I appreciate Breakout's open-source ethos that encourages borrowing and fosters creativity.

Blue - I've been fortunate to have my own classroom for the past two-plus years. It's a space with one blue wall, the rest being cream colored. In May, I learned that I will need to vacate the space in 2017-18 to facilitate other needed changes in who works where and why. The upshot is I'll migrate between two rooms (and perhaps one office). Anticipating feeling like an interloper in colleagues' spaces initially made me a little blue. Now, though, I'm starting to see opportunities in the change. The clouds are parting; increasingly, the blue I'm noticing is the open summer sky.