Saturday, March 24, 2012

Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butters

Yeah, I know -- this "small step" involved a trip to my local Walgreen's to see what all the fuss was about regarding the newest lipstick Revlon has developed:  Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butters.  I really liked the Peach Parfait color Emma Stone wears in her advertisement for the new product, and plus, I hadn't bought a new lipstick in ages.  So there!  :)

I, of course, couldn't stop at just a lipstick since I feel lip gloss tops off any look, so I also bought a Revlon Super Lustrous lip gloss in Peach Petal.

The Peach Parfait goes on a lot lighter than I thought it would, but I'm actually okay with that.  Since I really haven't used a lipstick in the orange color family in ages, I was kind of nervous about purchasing this color anyway.  Again, the Emma Stone ad won me over.

It turned out on me to be more of a subtle peach color, and I love the lip gloss over it.  Both add subtle peach color.  What do I think about the new Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butters?  I love the name, the packaging, the subtle color, and the feel of the lip "butter".  Honestly, it is almost has a lip balm consistency.

My overall impression?  I would give both products a thumbs up!

In case you're curious:

Shirt:  Merona t-shirt from Target
Earrings:  Kohl's

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Shaking up My Schoolroom

As I was tweeting on Twitter one night last spring, I noticed a barrage of tweets bearing the hashtag #dontfailme (a hashtag, for those of you who haven't discovered Twitter, is a way to “tag” tweets for easy searches and is created by using the # sign with the words running together without spaces or punctuation).  Curiosity won over me as I began to read these tweets, and I soon discovered people were tweeting about a special report CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien hosted entitled Don’t Fail Me:  Education in America.  In fact, so many people tweeted about this topic using the #dontfailme hashtag that it trended on May 15, meaning that it was one of the most popular hashtags being used on Twitter at any given point in time nationwide.  While this phenomenon impressed me, it also made me realize that I am not alone in my concern that education is in crisis mode.  I missed this report on May 15 but made sure to watch the re-airing later that same week.

Education in America:  Don't Fail Me Part 1
You can find other excerpts from this special on YouTube.

As O’Brien’s CNN special noted, the state of education in America is at a critical point now.  Look at any research or data, and you will find any number of alarming statistics ranging from only 16% of high school students enroll and complete Calculus (O’Brien) to approximately 1.2 million students fail to graduate from high school, more than half of whom are from minority groups (Alliance, p. 1).  In my opinion, the purpose of teaching and learning, is a “casserole dish”, if you will, of several ingredients:  developing engaging lessons, giving choices to students of how to present what they have learned, building rapport with students, giving feedback on student learning, and aiding students in developing resiliency.  Though different chefs may present arguments for different ingredients in the educational casserole, I feel the aforementioned ones make the most difference in my 22 years of experience.

While the end product of teaching is to provide society with productive and knowledgeable young adults who can build successful lives for themselves, teachers have to first impart this knowledge.  Schlechty states that it is no easy task as “. . . the world of the young and the world of adults have grown further and further away from each other” (2001, p 20). To educate students in today’s society, I feel you have to develop engaging lessons, give choices to students of how to present what they have learned, and build rapport with students.  

Teachers must keep students engaged as a part of learning.  I also feel it is important to give students choices in how they present the information they have learned.  It helps to make them feel independent and gives them more ownership.  Meeting with my students one-on-one to conference about options available to them and showing them quality examples of previous students’ work helps them decide on what they want to do.  Finally, in terms of teaching students, I believe that teachers MUST develop a rapport with their students.  Baruti Kafele notes that “. . . your students must actually like you if they are to do well in class—and in order for them to like you, you must show that you like them” (2009, p. 9).  Kafele is so emphatic on this point that he even asserts, “even a brilliant student needs a teacher who understands how to make solid connections with him” (p. xiv).  Developing relationships is quite important, and Schlechty documents that in order to provide engaging work, teachers “. . . must understand their students well enough to know which of these qualities are likely to be important to students . . .” (p. 107).  McLeod, Fisher, and Hoover maintain that a teacher’s classroom climate of learning is based on “. . . the relationships that are established between the teacher and students. . .” (p. 62).  As noted by these educators, students do not care what you know until they know that you care.

Teachers teach and students learn, or so we hope.  Even so, some best practices can help students learn better than others.  Brookhart (2008) did extensive research regarding teacher commentary on student work and found that “writing comments was more effective for learning than giving grades” (p. 7).  As an alternative teacher with smaller than average class sizes, I utilize this best practice on a daily basis and find that it does help.  My feedback comes in the form of written communication as well as verbal comments during one-on-one conferences.  The other strategy that I feel is vital is helping students, especially ones that are at-risk, to be resilient.  One of the crises that Kafele (2009) addresses in his book is the “self-crisis,” a term to describe the breakdown of an individual person.  If a student does not have a high self-esteem or a positive self-image or even a certain amount of self-discipline, he/she will not be very resilient, and resiliency is the key to overcoming setbacks, not only in an educational setting, but also in life.

Leading schools when you are not in a traditional administrative leadership position can sometimes lead to roadblocks in terms of school-wide change.  Even though I might not be able to change certain aspects of school organization and culture, I can still control what goes on within my four walls.  Also, by producing clear results via test scores, percentage of students finishing my courses with passing grades, etc. maybe others will take notice from my examples and make small changes in their own four walls.  Small changes can certainly lead to big results when it comes to teaching and learning, and when mixed properly make a darn good casserole!

Alliance for Excellent Education. (2009).  Retrieved from http:/ /www
Brookhart, S. M. (2008).  How to give effective feedback to your students.  Alexandria:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Kafele, B. K. (2009).  Motivating black males to achieve in school and in life
Alexandria:  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
McLeod, J., Fisher, J., & Hoover, G. (2003).  The key elements of classroom management:
managing time and space, student behavior, and instructional
strategies.  Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
O’Brien, S. (2011). Don’t fail me: education in America.  CNN
Schlechty, P. C.  (2001). Shaking up the schoolhouse: how to support and sustain
educational innovation.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stash to Study

Forget the omnipresent junk drawer in the kitchen -- I had an entire bonus room full of junk.  Boxes upon boxes of old binders, knick knacks, old picture frames and lamps, outdated comforter sets, broken chairs, my college typewriter, and window treatments I bought but never used found a home in that unused space.  You name it, I stashed it.  It took years to accumulate that much stuff!  I make pack rats feel good about themselves.

Alas, I enrolled in a graduate program and felt the need to have a home office.  My own niche in the house where I could hide and work (or hide and surf the 'net while taking a break from the work -- ha!).  Enter the junk, er, bonus room.  

From stash . . . 

There was an alcove just beside the stairs leading up to the bonus room that was literally begging "save me" when I went up there one evening to rummage through my stashed stuff for an empty binder for my first grad class, and I decided to claim that small space for my own.  After a full day of moving all the junk from that space (as well as that entire side of the room) to the other side of the room, I was able to create my study.

. . . to study!

Being on a bit of a budget, I didn't buy a thing for this space.  EVERYthing you see in this picture (well, except for my MacBook Pro) was already in that bonus room hiding away -- even the shawl on the back of the office chair.  LOL  

While it's not perfect or totally decorated, it is a terrific space for getting work done quietly.  I used a corner desk that my daughter didn't need anymore and backed a bookcase up to it (it's hard to see in the picture but it's right in the front) as well as some knick knacks and pictures.  I didn't hang the pictures as  I felt this space was temporary -- my goal is to totally purge the junk and make a cool family hang out now that my kids are getting older.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Sometimes the small step you take each day needs to be not only for yourself, but for others.  In this case, to help celebrate a good friend's birthday.  Hey, I didn't say they had to be hard-to-do steps!  :D

I had the best time tonight hanging out with wonderful friends to celebrate my friend Lisa's upcoming 50th birthday.  She chose a newer restaurant The French Market in a nearby town.

The French Market in Locust Grove, Georgia

Lisa lookin' all of 35 years old!

The French Market was such a neat restaurant with a great menu, great bar, great atmosphere, and great service.  It was bustling with patrons, which is a sure sign of its success, and they also had live music.  I also had my first ever fried spinach.  Yes, you heard (or rather read) right -- fried spinach with parmesan cheese and balsamic reduction.  OMG -- it was scrumptious and practically melted in my mouth!  For the main course, I had a very tasty, not too mention SPICY, dish of Cajun shrimp and andouille sausage pasta.  I'm glad they had plenty of chilled water on hand!  And, finally, I chose to go with a liquid dessert this evening:  coffee with liqueur -- and they gave me plenty of it!  

They even had a great store with a French country flair.  Double W00T!

So, so pretty!

Neat make-your-own charm bracelets or necklaces!

Talk about a conversation piece!  :)

Now this is the kind of small step I like taking each day -- thinking of and being with others!

Photography:  I used my iPhone and the Instagram photo app for all pictures with the exception of the first one where I also used the Pixlrmatic photo app.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Latte Factor -- What's Yours?

It is normal to have payments on things such as credit cards, loans, and cars.  At least that is the philosophy my husband and I both had growing up.  As long as you could pay your bills, you were fine -- right?  Wrong.  We lived that way for years (16 years) until we hit a crossroads that made us think differently.

My husband and I decided to downsize our jobs due to our son being born 2 1/2 months premature.  Some things are just more important than careers, and our family was definitely in that category.  However, we wisely realized that we would have to make some financial changes since we'd be taking a 15K decrease in our combined salaries.  We felt like we needed to pay off my car (his was paid off), a loan, and our two credit cards.

To do that, though, meant getting more cash flow, not less!  So, we brainstormed items we bought on pretty much a daily basis that we thought we didn't really need to buy.  Here's our list:

  • Getting chicken biscuits every morning on the way to work 
  • Getting a coffee at Starbucks on the way to work 
  • Ordering lunch out every day at work 
  • Running into a grocery or drug store after work to get something (it's amazing how programmed we are to spend money!)

We figured we'd save about $75 a week on eating our breakfast at home and brown-bagging (it would have been $100, but some of that went into buying things at the store for lunches) it at work and not always stopping by a miscellaneous store on the way home from work.  That's $300 a month that we had just freed up -- that's some serious cash!!

This fledgling idea was the start of us paying off around 100K in total debt over the course of three years.  Being debt free (except for our mortgage) is truly a wonderful feeling, and it starts (of course) with small steps daily!  :)

Note:  We later found out by googling about tips on becoming debt free that we were doing exactly what we should do.  One author, David Bach, coined the concept of what we did as the Latte Factor, and it's described in his book, The Automatic Millionaire.  I didn't read this entire book, but I found the section on the Latte Factor to be reaffirming.

More posts will follow about other ways we paid off the 100K.  Please comment or ask questions.