Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thoughts on Puppy Training and Dominance

I guess you can’t reason or guilt a dog into good behavior. Recently, our sweet Toast has shown a few signs of teenage defiance (in dog years of course). On three recent occasions our normally docile dog has show the first signs of aggression we have seen in the year we have known her. On a side note, it is hard to believe we have only had this little pup in our lives for a year. At times she seems like the best friend we have had all our lives, and at times she is so quiet we forget she exists… hmmm… But recently, she has been a total brat. She has snarled and snapped at three dogs (two puppies) on walks and at the dog park, in the last two weeks. We can attribute her behavior to three things:

1.     Our next-door neighbors have their in-laws come by at least a few times a week to care for their young daughter and with them they bring Titus. Titus is an asshole dog. There is really no other way of putting it. He is a total aggressive asshole. This dog barks at every living creature (human, dog, cat, whatever) that walks near the house. When I go out to my car he charges the fence and snarls and barks at me like I am an evil, threatening criminal. I hear him as early as 6 in the morning when the parents come over because they let him out in the yard instead of keeping him inside where he would be less aggravated. Anyway, since our fence butts up against theirs Titus and Toast have been “fence-fighting”. When our little guard dog hears Titus, she runs outside to the small section of chain-link fence that adjoins our neighbors and those two go at it. I hate that she has become so aggressive in reaction to this other dog. When yell at her to stop she comes in but she is super agitated. I can only imagine how she feels when she is at home alone when Tim and I are at school. Poor pup. The long overdue solution is that I need to talk to my neighbors. Maybe we can coordinate different times when the dogs can be out in the yards or erect some barrier or something. In any case, I bet the fence fighting has contributed to her bad behavior.
2.      This is an easy one. Exercise. More, more precisely, lack thereof. We have been lax about taking this dog out for walks and jogs. She is young and super athletic and needs to get out and run. We were good about taking her for regular walks when she was a puppy but schoolwork has gotten the best of us and we have been seriously negligent. I think a few weeks ago she went a whole week without a proper walk. I can only imagine that her pent up energy contributes to her recent aggressiveness.
3.      Dominance. We have to remind Toast who is boss. I can’t say I prescribe fully to the Cesar Milan theory of dog training but I do know that when I show Toast that I am the pack leader she is much better behaved. When we went to dog training we learned a bunch of things to do to assert human dominance that, frankly, we have been slacking off on. For example, the humans are always supposed to walk in the door to the house before the dog barges in. When we give her a command she is supposed to obey instantly. We must invite her up on the couch before she is allowed to jump up herself. In the past few weeks we haven’t been asserting these rules and I think that her behavior suffers as a result. So we are cracking the proverbial whip with this dog. The technique that has been working the best has been putting her down. No, not putting her to sleep. Just forcefully rolling her onto her back and holding her there for a moment. Dogs do this to each other to assert dominance and it has been very successful, especially when we put her down immediately after she has shown any signs of aggression. Interestingly enough, the skills necessary to get a submissive dog are the same that Tim is practicing in his classroom with his students. He has been told he needs to work on his classroom management (I can only imagine that he is too rational and forgiving). It appears that in order to have consistently well-behaved puppies and teenagers, it is important to be consistent, assertive, disciplined and firm.

Anyone out there have any thoughts or experiences with working with suddenly aggressive dogs (or impudent teens?)?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fabulous Fall Break

Toast playing at the dog park. Gorgeous Sacramento sunset behind.

     This past week I have been home from work. It was a scheduled fall break where the kids don’t have to be in session all week and neither do the teachers. I have other stuff to do like plan, examine data, and correct papers, but I haven’t really been working too hard. I am taking it easy and taking care of myself. 
       The last two weeks were insane before fall break. I was always one step behind and quickly getting burned out. My teaching was a little bad, but in the end I think my efforts went to a more extraordinary cause. Basically, in order for classes to be eligible college prep classes for Cal States and UCs, the UC system needs to approve them as rigorous enough. In order to do this the schools (usually districts) have curriculum developers write these reports that outline the entire curriculum for an individual class. This report gives a brief purpose for the class, a large course outline that includes the units taught, the skills learned, books read, essential, guiding questions and key assignments. Then, the writing assignments, unit-by-unit, need to be described, as well as the listening and speaking assignments, unit-by-unit.   
      It is a lot of work and some stuff is redundant but these course descriptions need to be done. Each school gets two chances to get courses approved. First, you can send in a course description and if it is approved, it’s all good, but if it is not approved it is sent back to the school with some comments and then the school has 10 days to rewrite the course descriptions and send them back. I was working with some colleagues a few weeks ago I noticed them working hard on these and I laughed a little bit not really understanding how important these descriptions are. Anyway, since I am the only English teacher at the high school level, I offered to help out with the English courses, if they had not been approved already. A few days later the school was sent the first of the English courses back. Not Approved. I was called into the office of the college/guidance counselor and asked if I was still willing to help. Being as helpful as I am, I said, “Sure. This will be fun.” 
        I was given a sub for a day as I delved deeply into the format that was required. I worked on the weekend and clocked about 14 hours. I finished the first one. There were 3 more. I was given a sub for two more days so I could work on them during school hours, but I still had to clock another 14 hours the following weekend. That was the weekend before last. Needless to say I was behind on my standard prep; going day-to-day, but once I turned in that last one I was super excited. I really appreciate the experience. I wrote about 35,000 words (about 85 pages or so) in 10 days and really got some insight into the Common Core standards since the format required the descriptions be based on the Common Core skills. I found that I really enjoyed writing and planning these massive reports, so this may be something I pursue in the future. Anywho, now I can only hope that they get approved. 

         So far this break, we went to Santa Rosa Harvest Festival this last weekend and stocked up our wine cabinet. We also saw our first live symphony with this phenomenal violin player.  A straight virtuoso! Also, we spent some quality time with Chelsea’s grandparents. Then we came home. I re-organized my classroom, graded a few papers (with many more to go), went to gym (with horrible chest aching side effects; I could barely sleep last night because of chest pains.), I’ve cleaned the house, took Toast to the dog park, finished a few books I need to read for school, saw an early private screening of a documentary about an undocumented alien called “Documented” and even wrote a little bit. And it’s only Wednesday!    
Walking around Spring Lake in Santa Rosa with the Grandparents. It was a perfect fall day.
     I am about to finish grading, plan for next week, and then spend the weekend in Oxnard for my Mom’s 60th Birthday! We are going to her 60s themed party and then hopefully see my brothers new band play! Then back to the grind. But I promise to take things one at a time and relax before then!

Random Pic: My new classroom set up. They are in pairs instead of fours.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thoughts on September

My "crafty" thrift store wreath
It is officially fall, both in the Northern Hemisphere and in the Tibbs household. I waited until the fall equinox to put up some decorations which I have been collecting and Emily and I found on the cheap at Thrift Town (cue Mackelmore song…). I took a whopping 15 minute study break to make a wreath for the front door, string up some orange Halloween lights and put out cornucopia and the Dia de los Muertos skeletons on the mantel (and fill the candy bowl the Halloween treats!). Even though my decorations are no pinterest masterpiece, I love that it feels festive in my house. Yay fall! It is finally chilly enough for me to wear fuzzy socks in the evenings too. I love this season!

The coming of fall also means I am rapidly progressing through my second year of law school. I am half way done with the semester already and when the semester is over, I will be halfway done with law school! Woo hoo! What a crazy thought.

Tim and I have planned to take our winter vacation (the only vacation time we both have off together at the same time) in Hawaii this year. As much as we feel sad that we will be abandoning our families, who we see so infrequently with our busy schedules normally, we decided we need a luxurious break for just the two of us. So, we have our tickets purchased for a week in Oahu! We are seriously looking forward to relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, and enjoying a mele kalikimaka on the island. As a bonus, we will get to see our dearest friend, and Peace Corps Guyana housemate/sister Sara! She and her boyfriend moved out to Hawaii last year and they will be our hosts for part of our vacation. We are really looking forward to seeing her and relaxing in island style! IT is certainly something to look forward to.

Toast gets lazy if she doesn't get walked enough.
In the meantime, school is going well. I like most of my classes, although there are some required courses on subjects that I never imagine I will ever use when I am a real grown up lawyer, that I am just trying to endure/pass. By far, the toughest thing about the second year of law school is managing time and conflicting obligations. The workload is about the same, but I have gotten much more involved in the activities that I treated as secondary projects last year. So it is always a balancing act when I have to decide how much time I spend on emailing and organizing for the National Lawyers Guild vs. time spent reading and briefing for class vs. time spent on exercising and walking Toast/cooking dinner/doing laundry vs. how much time Tim and I get to spend doing fun things and socializing.

Plus, I am working ten hours a week this semester at a small, but BUSY, immigration law office. So far I love it! I am learning so much more about the practice of immigration law. We do family-based immigration, humanitarian cases (asylum, victims of crime and domestic violence) and employment-based immigration. My coworkers are fantastic. They are friendly and smart and willing to teach me. And I believe we all share similar values, which makes for a wonderful work environment. I love that I get to interact with clients on a daily basis (my Spanish is rapidly coming back to me by necessity!). My favorite thing about this type of law is that it is basically my job to be a strategic story-teller. By this I mean I get to take someone’s life story and present it in legalese in a way that meets all the required statutory legal elements in a way that is compelling enough to win the case or get the requested relief and, ultimately, make a huge impact on someone’s future. It is basically exactly what I want to be doing when I graduate!

Mt office. I was invited to personalize it. I love that, although I have no windows and am only there two days a week, I have a few things that make it feel like me.
I guess, all in all, when I have a minute to sit back and reflect, life is pretty great. Tim and I are only busy because we choose to be and, frankly, we love what we do and where we are in life right now.

Happy fall evening, working together, enjoying the beautiful patio!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Early Fall Focus

September is in full force. The books are out, “to be corrected” papers are stacked higher and higher, and the candle is burning at both ends. Welcome, Fall! 

Even though most schools have just reopened I’ve been working with students since August 5. I’ve been making unit plans, lesson plans, adjusting classroom management strategies, attending meeting after meeting some on teacher training, some on data assessment, and some to get aligned with the norms of my department team. It’s been a whirl-wind. New ideas are forming, new strengths are developing and, to an extent, sleep is being deprived. Though, I am at a significantly smaller school, I feel like my duties have doubled. This is mostly because we don’t have enough staff or students to fill all of those small roles. Moreover, I am the only English Teacher at the school for grades 8-12, but I am only working with 8, 9, and 12 while the 10th and 11th graders are taking a college course and the 6th and 7th graders have solid humanities teachers. This is another hurdle: 3 different classes to prep. Last year, I had only 10th grade so one lesson plan would be sufficient, these days its 3 lesson plans a night. 

But I digress. Don’t get me wrong, this is the hardest I’ve ever worked, but I don’t mind. The school is great; the staff is extremely supportive and understanding and they only want me to become a better teacher. I appreciate that. I’ve connected with so many of them and hope I can continue teaching and honing my craft here for the years to come.

Moving away from work, Sacramento is still being its wonderful—if confused—self. It has been hot and sunny, but then we had a crazy “Fall-Fake Out” (on Labor Day) where it was grey and cloudy all day and rain began to pour throughout the day. Then, it was 90+ degrees again and will stay that way throughout this week.

Chelsea is doing a lot work too organizing immigration events for her practicum course, reading page after page for her other classes, working at a firm 10-hours a week, and being an active board leader for the National Lawyers Guild. And just the other night we hosted a “Solidarity Mixer” at our house for the NLG members both at McGeorge and at Davis. It was a fun night and we met some really interesting people.

We are staying busy and are really looking forward to the real fall when the temperature drops and the trees weep colors.

But until then, I’m off to grade and plan!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

August Wrap-Up

·      I am still trying to find my groove and get into a rhythm with my new class schedule. It is a challenging semester but, overall I love the classes I am taking. It is great to be a 2L and get to choose my own courses.  Tim is falling into routine too and it feels good.

·      I got a part-time job! I am working as a law clerk (paid position!) for a private immigration firm. It is small (two kick-ass female attorneys, 1 support staff and 1 business manager, and now me). I’ve only worked one day so far but I already think it is going to be a great fit for me. The work is interesting (everything from employment to family-based to humanitarian immigration) and my co-workers are so nice and fun. On my first day they bought me a birthday cake because they heard it was my birthday week. How super sweet is that?

Last evening in the Glen. Happy birthday!
·      My birthday celebrations were great! I was surrounded by people I love and had such fun! We took a lightning-speed trip down to Santa Cruz to see Taming of the Shrew at the Glen at Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Mom and Stephan made a theme picnic; Shrewdrivers and Lambic-pentameter, Cross-gartered loins (grilled flank steak sandwiches), Shake-spears (asparagus speaks in a ziplock bag of seasonings), and other cleverly named, delicious morsels. Although none of us were particularly impressed by the artistic decisions of this particular show, I found out later that this was Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s last season! It makes me sad to see another of my hometown landmarks fall into obsolescence. Stephan made an amazing ice cream cake for me. It is great to have a chef in the family. :) 28 is going to be a great year. 

A delicious picnic with some of my favorite women (and Tim, taking the picture).

·      Sacramento is still hanging on to summer weather but at night the cool breeze and crisp mornings remind us that winter is coming. Emily says it is time for me to buy winter curtains to keep us warm in our drafty old house.  I’m excited to wear boot and scarves again. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Empowered and Energized

I have realized that I love to be busy, busy, busy. I think that even if I had magic hourglass that Hermione had in Harry Potter, I’d be just like Hermione and turn back time to re-do my days over again, just to fill them with more things to do. I wouldn’t go back in time and take a nap, or watch Project Runway. I’d probably clean my house, or arrange and decorate my patio or volunteer in an afterschool program, or actually practice yoga regularly.

As it is, I don’t have the time-turney thing yet I manage to fill my schedule to the max and stay happy. Maybe my love of staying busy is because I am an extrovert. Maybe because I think I have magic powers. I really don’t know. But I do know that even when I have a “break” from something, I am not really taking a break.

For example, last week Friday I finished my 10-week internship with The Firm. I technically started my two-week “break” before school starts again. Two weeks of leisure reading and sleeping-in, right? Ha. Here’s what actually happened:

Immediately after I left work, I got home where my mom and Auntie were making tutu costumes for our run in the Color Run for the next day. I helped cut and sort colorful tulle for a while, until I swept everyone off to a happy hour event that I had a hand in organizing with the group of Return Peace Corps Volunteers in Sacramento. I bounced between my RPCV cohort and my family for a few hours and then we zipped back home to finish our tutu making extravaganza and get ready for the “happiest 5k on earth” the next day.
Tutus and fairy wings! Oh My!

The Color Run on Saturday was SO much fun! It was like a giant Holi celebration so Tim and I got to feel happily nostalgic for the beautiful holidays we spent throwing powder and playing Pagwah in Guyana.
Before the color 

After (and during) the color madness!
In between running through color and eating and drinking with family and friends, I had volunteered to help Tim set up his classroom since his students came back from break this week Monday. Luckily, our good friend Erin offered to help Tim and I get his classroom situated. Erin’s mom is a school teacher, so she has lots of experience hanging posters, making colorful borders and writing in legible block letters. It was a great help on Saturday evening and Sunday morning to have Erin help with the set up!
Tim's classroom is UCSD themed. Go Tritons!
So lets see, finish internship, RPCV event, make tutus, do color run, hang with fam, set up Tim’s classroom….what was next, I am sure I managed to shove a few million other things into the weekend…oh yes! Then on Sunday afternoon, after I took my Auntie to the airport, I drove in to San Francisco to meet a few college buddies for dinner and a belated “graduation ceremony” for my amazing friend Heather who just got her masters in speech pathology and is done with school forever!
We got Heather a lei (she never had one before) and a "cap" and "gown", made a graduation program and played Pomp and Circumstance on the iPhone. Much to the hilarity of the other restaurant patrons.
After a (surprisingly) amazing vegan meal with wonderful friends, did I decide that I had should chillax a little, like a sane person would do? Heck no! Instead I drove to San Jose to stay the night and have breakfast with my Emily friend, then on Monday headed into SF for the day for a whirlwind of back-to-school thrift store shopping, then I drove to Santa Rosa to help my Oma organize her art studio. Monday and Tuesday consisted of chatting with my Oma as I did things she shouldn’t be doing anymore, like standing on ladders, lifting heavy stepping stones, lifting boxes, running up and down stairs to put things away etc. Basically, projects followed by amazing meals and more back to school thrift-store shopping as rewards.

In the midst of all this madness, I have been working on organizing the Orientation Week for the new incoming law students. Orientation starts next week and there is much left to do. My co-chair and I have a scavenger hunt map to make, prizes to buy, a menu to finalize and much more. But Orientation is going to be awesome!
The week after Orientation, I start classes and I’m kidding myself if I think the pace of life will slow down when school starts. I will have to shift my focus back in to class mode and away from social and extra-curricular activities. But I will be no less busy. I am taking 17 units (the max allowed by the school). That is 7 classes (only 4 with finals), working as a research assistant for the Moot Court Competition team, and leading the National Lawyers Guild chapter into our first full year of activities and legal activism.

This may sound exhausting, and maybe I will have to reassess as classes get going and drop some things if the schedule is not tenable, but I don’t feel exhausted, overwhelmed or grumpy. I feel empowered! Like I mentioned, I love being busy! I am proud when I can accomplish all my many goals for the day and love that I constantly am challenging myself to keep all the balls in the air. I haven’t forgotten my motto (instilled in me last year, CTFO – chill the fuck out). I just don’t feel un-chill. I feel energized, empowered and ready to kick butt this upcoming year!

But seriously, if anyone knows where I can get Hermione’s time-turney thing, hook a sister up!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Through the Rabbit Hole, the Looking Glass, or Even the Wardrobe and then the Fourth

The Vistas over Ventura County
 These last few weeks have been a flurry of activity. First, Oxnard was really great. I hung out with some awesome people, with my parents, my fabulous friends, my cousin and my brother. However, there was an instance that dampened my mirth: I lost my job.

Okay, so I don’t really want to get into it, but the whole plans of teaching 12th grade and so forth: scrapped. Basically, Tuesday June 18th I was called by my former principal and I had to reapply for the position and interview again…in other words, jump through some hoops. I started looking for work right away. From that day on I looked for job openings. I spent the rest of the week hanging with my Dad, looking for work, hanging with my mom, visiting fabulous vistas in Ventura, and then picking fresh avocados and stone fruit. Though, I was a bit stressed Chelsea, Dad, Mom, and Phil were super supportive and kept me grounded.  Eventually, Chelsea and Toast came down late Thursday night, and we spent Friday and Saturday in Oxnard doing the rounds. Moreover, on Friday I got the official word:  I was not rehired.

 Though this caused more stress, I had an interview set up for that Monday at my dream school and I wanted to prep for it. We left Saturday evening and spent Sunday in Sacramento getting settled. The rest of the weeks leading up to now I spent job hunting full time. I looked on all the sites from non-profits to district schools to charter schools. I wrote cover letter after cover letter; posted and re-posted my resume. I sent e-mails to everyone I knew asking for letters of rec or leads on jobs. I even had a spread sheet set up that listed all my contacts, all the applications I had sent in, and if I had followed up with them or not. By the time the fourth of July rolled around I had a list of 17 jobs and 12 contacts. Unfortunately, I did not get the job at the dream school, but there is a happy ending.

I had another interview at a different school set up for Friday the 28th of June.  It was a school I had applied for last year, but heard nothing back from them so I gave it another shot this year. I interviewed on Friday. They called me back for a demo lesson on Tuesday, and they offered me a job on Wednesday July 3rd.   YAY!  I am super excited. They wanted to move quickly and so did I. It’s an inner-city school and I think I will be teaching 2 classes of 8th Grade, 1 class of 9th Grade, and 1 class of 11th grade. A lot of preps, but the classes should be small (about 30 students per class) and I am really looking forward to curriculum development. Furthermore, this school really emphasizes evaluation and peer feedback so I will be reviewed by my principal, my humanities leads, and get structured coaching and tons of feedback. At the end of the year I know I will be a better teacher.

So we come full circle, we stepped out of the wardrobe, pierced our way through the looking glass, and climbed out of the rabbit hole. We headed down to Palm Springs for the fourth with a lighter heart.  

In Palm Springs we mostly spent time near the pool, having wonderful conversations, seeing some fireworks, reading and relaxing. All the pieces that make a vacation a vacation: good people, good food, good times.

As of now I am finalizing the paper work for this new school, I have a week long training next week and start my first full day on July 30.

Chelsea is doing great she is still plugging away at her internship and learning so much about the law. She can write her own update when the time comes.  But for now summer is in effect, the state fair is coming to town, and stability is returning.  

TOAST!!! At the beach for the first time!
Madre at the Beach go SO CAL! 
Tom and Llewellyns Baby!!
More vistas of Ventura
Palm Springs!