Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dear Mr. President...

The nice thing about teaching is that I don't have to write my own blogs; I just steal my students' writing and post it here.

My students wrote letters to President Obama that I need to mail this week. I've been putting it off because I want to excerpt some of what they wrote here.

"You might not know where Carson is, but here are some clues. We live near Long Beach where a famous haunted baot is, the Queen Mary. Here is another clue. We also live in the same city as where they Home Depot Center is, home of the Chivas USA and of the LA Galaxy."
(It's like a scavenger hunt!)

"My goal is to do well in school, do all my homework, and pass my classes so I can go to college. I want to do this so I can be the first one in my family to go to college."

"I wish you luck and a Happy Halloween."

"My family and I work in the swapmeet at Los Angeles and my family and I had suffer so much. I carry heavy boxes to help my mom and dad. I have been working in the swapmeet for twelve years, and since the economy started it went really bad, so I started to work harder, and I put in effort so I won't stop working. I always wanted to be a president of the United States, the first woman, so I dream of it and I work and go to school to study."
(This one made me tear up.)

"When I culminated from elementary school I got an award signed by you. It was a Presidential Achievement Award. Nobody from my mom's part of the family has ever graduated from high school."

"I too agree and symptahize with you the way you described our needs thoroughly."

"I will have a great career like you Mr. Obama. And you're better than George Bush, I got to say."
(I told them not to do this...but "he got to say" it.)

"My goal was and is to get straight A's in my report card. That is one of my goals, but the one I am going to tell you sir, it comes with the straight A's because my second goal is to get into a great, amazing, fantastic college when I grow up. I do want to get good grades as I told you sir, in my own goal."
(I think she thought the letter was to Peppermint Patty.)

"I really appreciate you worrying about the children in the world, but what about the adults need to get some kind of booster to keep on moving toward a better life."

"I hope the economy problem goes away. You can make America better, you just have to try."

"I would like to have the opportunity to meet you or another president. If you, for some reason, do not have time, well that's okay. I culd start my own team to start healing the Earth. I would be happy either way."

"I wish that you caould come to our school and recite one of your outstanding speeches. But since you can't, I wrote you a letter to show I appreciate your other speech. On the other hand, our school is located on Bonita Street, near the Queen Mary."
(Apparently I need to teach them how to correctly use the phrase 'On the other hand.')

"I realy want to do something important in the world that will make a difference and do something important with my life and not just throw it away like my dad and my real mom...I just don't know yet...any ideas?"

"Just three years ago I as new going to school here in America. I went to tutoring classes and summer schools because I came from another country. I never gave up, I studied hard, and here I am in the honors class."
(This one is for sure my favorite. The American Dream!)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Another way to save money....

Get on Victoria's Secret's mailing list. They send out coupons for free underwear every month or so. (They call them panties, but can we all agree that we never need to use that word again?) No other purchase necessary, just walk in, pick out a pair of cotton underwear, have them ring it up and it's free.

And Polly's idea (see her comments on my last blog) of making a spam account just for restaurant Eclubs is great too. I signed up with all my favorite restaurants and have coupons for 10% off, free appetizers, and promises of free stuff for my birthday, which is coming up. Score! I think I am going to print them out and keep them in my purse so I am ready when people decide they want to go out.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

All About the Benjamins

A few weeks ago I made a new life goal for myself: I want to get control of my finances. The goal is threefold:
1. Pay off credit card debt and stop having it in the future. If I want something, I need to save for it.
2. Talk to a financial manager about saving for retirement. LAUSD automatically deducts for STRS, but I want to start putting away some extra amount now.
3. I want to save enough money for a down payment on a property of some sort (ideally a small house in LBC, but more realistically at least a condo.)

So, I have been brainstorming ways to save money in small ways. I am a big fan of a little bit going a long way. And now I would like to share my ideas with you, blog readers, in the hope that you will share your ideas with me. I have divided them into categories (because I am a huge nerd).


1. Use the library. Which is totally obvious, I know, but I never used to do it. I recently decided to start a book club and rather than buy the book I went online to see which of Long Beach's libraries have it and went and picked it up. The only catch is returning the book on time so I don't have to pay late fees.

2. Strike up a DVD Deal. I am a HUGE fan of TV shows on DVD. But, it gets pricey to buy all the shows I like. Luckily, some friends and I have reached an unspoken understanding. I buy Weeds, Dexter, and Big Love (when it goes on sale. Damn HBO shows!). Becca and Justin buy How I Met Your Mother and Big Band Theory. Shelley buys The Tudors. We didn't sit down and discuss a plan, but it's nice that we share the wealth in this way. Also, I am going to rent Mad Men when I find the time, rather than buy it. And I save every month by not having cable. :)

3. Happy Hour at Home. Felisa started this one, but it's genius. Even with drink specials, happy hour can add up (especially when you go to Yard House). Last week, Greg hosted at his place. I brought a six pack and a bag of chips, spending $11. We hung out for a few hours and I can guarantee you that had I gone to Yard House I would have spent two to three times that amount. And, no waiting for a table or your next's all right there.

4. Drink Water. Okay, this one I just tried for the first time on Saturday, but I have high hopes for it. When you go out to a bar, make the first drink you order a glass of water. This not only has the benefit of keeping you hydrated, but if you drink it while you socialize that's one less drink you will buy that night, saving you some cash. I say do it first, because later in the night your judgment might not be as clear, and planning to only have two or three drinks gets trickier. But if you start slow you are less likely to drink as much (which is good for your health and your wallet.)

Beauty Products

5. Take advantage of Gift With Purchase. Every six months (in October and April) Clinique does their bonus time. I wait to buy my usual products (eyebrow pencil is the staple. The others I mix up.) until it is gift time. That way, I get a free mini mascara (I haven't bought mascara in a few years now.) It's about a six month supply, which is perfect because that's how long you are supposed to keep it anyway. And there are always other goodies that I use and a few that I give away to friends who enjoy them as well. You also always get at least one cosmetics bag, which I use to store toiletries when I travel.

6. Which leads me to storing travel-sized items. You know how when you go on a trip you always visit the mini-sized aisle in Target and stock up? I realized that for most of my trips I don't use the whole amount. So, I have a stash in my cupboard of travel sized items. Now, when I go on a weekend trip I don't waste money buying more toothpaste or shower wash, I dig into my stash. It's also great for emergencies when you realize you are out of shampoo or conditioner.

7. Talk to your stylist. Recently I asked Ashley, my fabulous hair dresser, how I could make my visits to the salon a little less expensive. She worked some magic (only dying certain parts of my hair every other visit. I don't really remember the details now, but I can't tell the difference when I look in the mirror). Essentially, I am saving an average of $10 per visit. Score!

8. Make a no professional pedicures allowed rule. This one is difficult. I love getting my toes done. They last longer than when I do it myself and look better. BUT, doing them at home is essentially free, since I have a decent stockpile of nail polish and files, and I can touch up chipped polish without having to do them all over, since I own the colors. This one has to be a RULE, because otherwise I'd totally break it.

9. Order styling products on ebay. I got hooked on the fancy-pants styling products for my hair over the past few years, but I have a hard time justifying my twenty dollar bottle of shampoo. The solution: Ebay! I can find my shampoo and conditioner, blow-drying lotion, leave-in conditioner, and hairspray on Ebay for a good deal less than the salon price. It's not as cheap as drug store brands, but frankly, I can tell the difference in my hair, and these few luxuries make me happy. And I'm not getting pedicures anymore, so leave me alone.

Do It Yourself

10. Recycle for money. I know it's lovely that the city gives you bins to throw your recycling in, but I just started saving bottles and plastic containers for cash recycling. Cal State Long Beach runs a community recycling spot where you can take your items and they pay you cash for them. You pay the CRV on all of those items anyway, so you might as well get it back. Also, since my roommate throws her stuff in with mine that's essentially free money.

11. Make birthday cards. This is my new goal because cards are a freaking rip-off. Every time I make a card I am saving between two and four dollars. I am making three cards in the next month, and am thus saving up to $12 this month alone. And I think it's fun to make your own, even though I am far from a craft queen. At least my mom will like it.

12. Grocery Shop. I loathe going to the store. But, if I don't I end up eating out because I have no food in my house. So, I have made going to the grocery store each weekend part of my routine. I have to be careful to balance going with stuff that I have to prepare so that it's cheaper and going with pre-made stuff because I am lazy as hell. But, I am making it a concerted effort to eat at home unless it is a group eating out activity.


13. Ask a teacher friend if they get magazine discounts. Every year my school sells magazines and teachers get 40% off. I not only get my beloved Entertainment Weekly for less than $15 bucks a year, but I hook several of my friends up too, getting them a good deal. Ask around.

14. Keep a regift bag. I know, I know. It's tacky. But, I keep a bag in my closet of items that I can use as gifts. Most of them end up being stocking stuffers-small items. But recently I got a free bag of stuff when I spent money at a store I like. It came with a pair of fun socks by Burton. I threw them in the gift bag and they will go in someone's stocking for Christmas. Candles that my students give me go in there. Extra stuff from Clinique gift. Things like that. I don't try to pass it off as purchased goods, but it's a nice go-to when you need a gift or want to thank someone for something.

15. Gym membership. You can buy a two-year membership to 24 Hour Fitness for $300 at Costco. As soon as the credit card debt is paid off, I am doing that and saving my $30 per month instead.

16. Tell your friends. Which is most of the reason I wrote this blog. If my friends know that I am saving and trying to spend less, they will get it when I decide not to go to dinner or cut back on shopping trips or whatever. And you can all come to my housewarming party in three years. Look forward to it.

So, if anyone is actually still reading, I want your ideas on how to save money! No idea is too small, I'm just tired of reading the same ideas on the internet. What's worked for you???

Friday, September 18, 2009

6th Grade Writing

I forget how many of my posts are about students when I am in school. But here is another one.

On the first day of school I give my kids the homework assignment to write two paragraphs about their first day of middle school. The first paragraph is about what happened and the second paragraph is about how the felt. This is an excerpt from Brandon's first paragraph:

"What happened at the first day of school was that I met new friends like Pablo, Arly, Richard and Jef. They looked really shy so I went to them individually and told them each my first and last name and all of them said in a quiet voice there names. Afer I told all of them my name I saw them stop being shy and talking and greeting other people."

Brandon's outgoing nature is certainly already confirmed and it's interesting that he is aware enough to notice that he has the ability to make other people more comfortable by being friendly. He also mentioned that at first he was nervous, but then it went away and he started to feel happy and "a little hungry."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Darndest Things.

This week I am having my kids write letters to President Obama telling him what goal they set for themselves in response to his speech on the first day of school. I was telling them to write a paragraph that introduces themselves-their names, grade they're in, what school they go to. I asked, "Now, do you guys think President Obama knows where Carnegie Middle School is?"

"Yesss," they all chorused back.

"Um, actually I don't think he does. Remember there are thousands of middle schools in America he can't know where all of them are. What are some landmarks nearby that would help him know where our school is?"

"Subway!" one girl yelled out (referring to the sandwich shop on the corner.)

"Well, no there are a lot of those."


"No, think of really famous things."

"City Hall!"

"Every city has a City Hall. Try to think of something there is only one of."

Eventually we got to Long Beach, which led us to the Queen Mary. And how far LA is from us. And that we were part of LA Unified. But I thought it was cute that they truly think the president knows exactly where their school is. I kind of hated to burst their bubble.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

First Day o' School

On the first day of school I give out a student interest inventory. It asks about brothers and sisters, favorite books, movies, TV shows, etc. Toward the bottom it asks, "If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?"

Now of course there are some kids who said they would buy mansions and video games, which is what I expected to see. But I would say over half said something along these lines:

"I would give half to charity and the other half to my parents to pay the bills."

"I would buy what I NEED first, and then get things that I want."

"I would give it to my parents because there is a money crisis."

"I would give it to someone that really needed the money."

I wonder if this is a result of the economic crisis? Even 6th graders are aware that times are hard and that money can do more than just buy video games and put in swimming pools. Through all the hard times economically for people, perhaps a positive is that it is making kids less greedy and selfish? It made my day to read those answers, honestly. Not that I am happy that things are hard, but it was such a nice sentiment-they still completely trust their parents, they want what's best for their families and others. Lovely.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Year, New...

...students. I went online to check out my classes before the first day of school. I don't really have a good reason to do this since they are all new to the school and none of them are legendary yet. I just read the names and look for crazy ones, and try to figure out if there are any huge troublemakers just by looking at their names. "Brian, no that should be fine. Stephanie, okay. Michael...I've had trouble with Michaels in the past..." I don't know why I do it, but I can't help it. In other news, I have a Betsy in my class this year. 1955 called, and they want their student back.

...clothes. I have acquired various work clothes over the summer that I have yet to wear. It's always fun to think about wearing new clothes, and it gives me false hope that I will look great everyday, all year. "I'll only wear jeans on Fridays. I will totally iron that button-down shirt so I can wear it more often this year." And even now, I think "but maybe this is the year where those things will be true!" Stay tuned blog readers.

...responsibilities. This year I am still the yearbook adviser, but I have finally agreed to sell ads, which means more work for me. And I feel like I need to make an ever-improving yearbook. The pressure's on. Also, I am the English department chair this year, which means working with all the teachers and running meetings and for right now, figuring out what else I am supposed to be doing. I really have very little idea. This should be fun.