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Conquering Content Vocabulary…and a lifelong goal!

This.  Is.  So.  Cool.

There is a book listed on Amazon….that I wrote.  Like, you can go to right now and type in “Tornetto”…and something will actually pop up!


It’s called, “Conquering Content Vocabulary,” and it’s an instructional strategies book about teaching content specific vocabulary outside of the ELA classroom.  Not gonna lie.  It’s been awhile since I’ve been this proud of myself!

One of my current 7th graders came to me the other day and said, “I want to write a book.  You just did that, right?”

I said yes.

He looked at me excitedly and asked, “How?”

I’ve wanted to be a published author ever since I can remember, and I definitely saw a little bit of myself in his face that day.  I gave him some cliche advice about editing his manuscript carefully and submitting to lots of publishers.  But deep down, he got me thinking about everything I’ve learned about writing over the years…and what I really should have said if I had had the time to think about it.

  1. Be prepared for the long haul.  Publishing a book takes a LONG TIME.  If you can’t commit to a long term project, writing a book is NOT for you.
  2. Don’t wait until you have something to say…but don’t expect to get published until you do.  I’ve been writing since…well since I learned how!  But it wasn’t until I developed an expertise and some experience as a teacher that I had something I was truly passionate enough about to follow through.  
  3. Write in a style and voice that you love; Don’t try to be something you aren’t.  I always thought I would love to write dramatic young adult novels…turns out that shorter, humorous-but-helpful non-fiction is my absolute love!  Don’t beat yourself up if you find your prefered writing style isn’t what you thought it would be.
  4. But don’t be afraid to love more than one style!  Over the years, in addition to discovering how much I love to write non-fiction, I’ve also discovered that I love to write children’s books.  They seem totally different…but the wit, humor, and the challenge of “saying a lot with a little” are what draw me to both writing genres.  If I had never been brave enough to try, I would never have known.
  5. Create a system for taking notes and citing sources.  Stick to it.  This isn’t just the middle school teacher in me covering my bases….seriously.  No publisher will even look at you if you don’t know how to give credit, cite sources, and research.  If you don’t want to spend half of your time trying to remember where you wrote down that quote you wanted to use, stick to your system.
  6. Be patient.  Did I mention that publishing a book takes FOREVER?  
  7. Get feedback from people you trust to tell you the truth.  This is the most important thing you can do to improve your writing.  Being open to really hearing those people critique your writing will be way harder than you think.  Do it anyway.
  8. When all else fails – stop.  Walk away.  For days at a time if necessary.  It’s okay.
  9. Read it out loud.  I don’t care how weird you feel.  Before I submitted my final manuscript I sat in a corner of Panera for 3 hours and read my entire manuscript (quietly) aloud to myself.  I may have confused a few strangers…but I caught DOZENS of errors and made LOTS of improvements.  
  10. Take the chance.  Send in that sample chapter.  Write that book proposal.  Email that editor.  Just do it.  Click send before you talk yourself out of it.  You’ll never know if you don’t try!  (But be prepared to wait after you click send.  It took Scholastic two years to express an interest in my manuscript.  Like I said…patience!)

Oh…and last but not least…

11.  When you have been wrestling with a certain phrase or paragraph for hours…and you think you finally figured it out…and all you need to do it keep those perfect words in your head long enough to get them typed out…that’s when your kids will need their umpteenth cup of apple juice of the day.  It’s science.

I guess that last one might not apply to my seventh grade student…but…it needed to be said.  

Anyway, at the risk of sounding like I’m accepting an Emmy, I really am so thankful for the opportunity to share my teaching experience with others in this book!  My editor, Maria Chang, at Scholastic was amazing to work with, and I’m so excited to have had such a positive first experience in the world of publishing.  Here it is! If you teach middle school or know someone who does…I hope you check it out!  


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Stuck in the Middle

There are exactly 5 days left until Christmas break at the middle school where I work. For you non-educators out there, imagine the monkey cage at the zoo about five minutes before feeding time….and then imagine someone tosses in a case of  5-Hour Energy drinks.  

It’s kind of like that.  

This is the hardest time of the year to survive as a teacher, and therefore the peak season for teacher’s lounge complaints.  If you’ve ever listened to a group of middle school teachers commiserating about how incredibly immature…or irresponsible…or obnoxious…or just plain DUMB their students can be, then you know, it’s basically a weirdly competitive bidding war to see who is having the worst day.

Teacher #1: (slapping a stack of copies down on the table of the teacher’s lounge)   Oh my gosh….these kids are driving me insane!  Last period, about halfway through our notes, I noticed one of them hadn’t written down ANYTHING.  When I asked her why, she just looked at me with a confused, blank stare and said, ‘I lost my pencil.’  Lost.  Her.  Pencil.  There is a whole jar full of pencils 10 feet from her desk!  Arrrghh!

Teacher #2: (inspecting a 3-day-old donut they just scavenged from the break room)  Ha!  That’s nothing.  One of mine actually turned in his math homework written in yellow highlighter…HIGHLIGHTER!  I should make his parents pay for my Lasik surgery.

Teacher #3:  (shaking their head)  I’ll trade you!  Today one of mine asked if she could do her EUROPEAN research project on CANADA.  I give up!

Teacher #4:  (speeding through on their way to recess duty)  Yeah, well….at least they aren’t eating M&Ms they found on the floor like I caught one doing today.

Teacher #2:  (taking a bite of the donut and washing it down with cold coffee from a mug that hasn’t been washed since August)  Middle school kids will eat anything!  

Teacher #5: (walks in looking completely defeated)  One of my students just pointed to the “Name” line at the top of the paper and said, ‘I don’t get it.’  

Teacher #1: (throws copies in the air and walks away) I’m out!  

Teacher #2:  (laughs…and chokes on his donut)

There are always days – like yesterday when a student asked me if they could go to the library…and then came back and whispered, “Umm….What should I do in the library?” – when we teachers are each sure that no one can possibly understand the struggle.  But one of the nice things about education is that just when you think you have experienced the worst or weirdest – you are always sure to find someone whose horror stories trump your own – and make you feel a little better about your life choice to be a “professional educator.”  

Of course, there are also, thankfully, many days when the students themselves remind me of why I chose to make middle school my professional “home” in the first place!  Like the time I found this note written on my board on the last day of school:


Or the day a former student sent me this note:


For me, middle school, in all it’s infuriatingly immature glory,  is where I was meant to teach.  My 7th graders are ridiculous, awkward, emotional, silly, dramatic, sweet, hilarious, rude, forgetful, needy, smelly, stubborn little humans who can’t seem to figure out if they want to be children or adults.  In the span of one school day…or heck, one class period…they can make you want to laugh and cry, hug them and strangle them, retire and rewrite a brand new curriculum!  

And at the end of the day…when the Axe Body Spray has cleared…you usually end up somewhere in the MIDDLE!  (Pun intended!)

So to my fellow teachers out there, the next time you help open a jammed locker and find this:

1130170849aYes, that is 20 bags of “Hot Fries.”

Take a deep breath, try to laugh, and focus on the good days!  And for those of you who don’t teach, here is a clip from a recent video assignment that gives you a perfect little glimpse into the typical day of a middle school teacher.    This.  Is.  My.  Life.     

Hope it makes you smile!

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A Tale of Two Christmas Cards

Every year, about a month before Christmas, moms across the country start to feel the mounting pressure.   It’s time to design that perfect holiday photo card; the one that will be the envy of everyone in our address books.  We obsess  – sometimes for months in advance – over Pinterest boards full of elegant color schemes and creative photo poses.  We adjust our already overstretched budgets to make room for matching outfits and a professional photographer sitting fee.   We willingly bribe our children with candy, toys, cash…anything to get them to wear the clothes we bought, smile, and pretend to love each other for 30 minutes.  Then, we spend hours and hours online designing a card that can compete with our friend, Susie Supermom’s, masterpiece from last year.  All in the name of spreading a little holiday cheer!

This year, I am that mom.  After weeks spent coordinating outfits, I still went shopping the day before for matching tights, and we stopped at the gas station on our way to the photo shoot to buy Sour Patch Kids, which we used to bribe our 3-year-old for every “pretty” smile he gave us.  (Literally.  Have you ever seen the sea lion show at the zoo where they throw the sea lion a fish every time he does a trick?  It was just like that.  Except…Milo isn’t as well-trained as that sea lion.)  

We hadn’t had family pictures taken in years, and if I was going to go to all the trouble anyway, I was sure as heck gonna use those (hopefully) picture-perfect portraits on this year’s Christmas card.  (Coming soon to a mailbox near you!)  

But last year, as that 50% off coupon from Shutterfly taunted me from behind it’s refrigerator magnet, I just didn’t care anymore.  Maybe all that turkey at Thanksgiving had left me feeling lazy, and less than thrilled at the idea of being photographed.  Maybe I was exhausted from fighting the crowds on Black Friday.  Maybe the thought of wrestling my (then) 2-year-old into his dress clothes seemed like just enough to shrink my heart two sizes and turn me into the Grinch.  But whatever the reason, last year I decided to ditch the idea of the perfect family photo and have a little fun instead!  

I taped some wrapping paper to a wall in our basement, grabbed a few fun Christmas props from the local party store and asked Mike to figure out the rarely used timer on the camera.  Then, for about 30 minutes one Sunday afternoon, our family of four, wearing comfy jeans and Christmas t-shirts, huddled together making silly faces and swapping props for the camera.  There was no whining, no bribery (Well, maybe a little.  I mean, we were still dealing with a two-year-old…But do Pop-tarts really count as a bribe?).  No color-coordinating or extra hairspray involved, and by the time we were done, we were all exhausted…but laughing.  

Don’t get me wrong…as I looked through the dozens of photos we had taken, I still stressed a little over which shot hid my double chin and whether Tessa (my 7-year-old) was making her “creepy” smile or her sweet one, but in the end I knew that the imperfections in those photos wouldn’t be nearly as memorable as the fun we had had taking them.  

1207161017a  *Note the Poptart in Milo’s hand!  Sorry, not sorry!

The cards I finally created for Christmas 2016 were more fun and festive than any posed family photo card (including 2017) could be.  They were real; and they captured the true Christmas spirit.  Instead of a carefully choreographed family glamour shot, It felt nice knowing that our silly grins would bring a smile to people’s faces, and that I was sending out real holiday cheer…and getting a little bit back in the process!

So if you are out there wondering what to do about this year’s Christmas card, keep one thing in mind.  The purpose of a family photo is to capture a memory, not put on a show.  If you choose to have those professional pictures taken, like I did this year, good for you!  But do it for you, and try your best not to stress out about the details.  After all…the people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind.  And if you just don’t have it in you this year, that’s okay!  Post your season’s greetings on social media, send out handwritten notes to close family and friends, have a fun, family photo-booth like I did…..or just skip the whole thing and enjoy spending time catching up with the people you love!  

After all, that’s what this whole Christmas card thing is all about!

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Some Sunday Thoughts

Some Sunday Thoughts

By:  Mike Tornetto

As a Catholic, I’m not the most likely person to be quoting scripture, nor the first to jump for joy about the notion of attending Sunday mass.  But twice in the last few weeks I have been profoundly struck by the wisdom and relevance of two ancient passages in a 2017 context.

This Gospel Reading (Matthew 20:1-16) about “The Workers in the Vineyard” really struck me:

“My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  

I’m a teacher, and I work my butt off.  While I enjoy having at least part of my summers off, like much of America’s workforce, I often feel overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, and sometimes angry with those in my profession who underperform – those I perceive to be putting in the less time and effort than I believe they should.  I try to stay appreciative, I try to stay humble, but at low points, like most people in any profession, I struggle with the negative thinking described above.  

What I love about the reading from Matthew is that it reaches through the ages and sets me straight, gives me guidance, and calls me out on my own sense of entitlement. Whether you are a person of faith or not, the message is clear, relevant, and wise.  Drop your ego, stop worrying about others, and get back to work!  As “The Greatest Generation” would tell us, you are lucky to have a job!   You are blessed to be employed; you are blessed to have a job that allows you to meet your own and your families needs. You are blessed to be able to do that with a sense of pride and accomplishment.  We are not entitled to anything; we are blessed to earn what we can.  

As an American, I am blessed to live in a country where I have great opportunities for education and employment, and that is true for all of us – no matter what anyone tells you!  We have the freedom to express our beliefs and live in safety…no matter what anyone tells you!  We should not take those blessings as an entitlement; they are not a birthright.  They are a blessing from God, earned by those American’s that came before us.  Those that fought, died, and acted with wisdom, compassion, and courage on countless fronts, on countless occasions.  Our forefathers are not perfect…not one of them, but we are none-the-less blessed to have had them as our predecessors.

Today, so much of society has become so selfish and lost so much of its way.  We have all become so egocentric, so juvenile, so entitled…and that certainly includes myself. This morning I feel blessed to be reminded of the wisdom Matthew taught us 2000 years ago, and as a Catholic I know that I must continue to struggle to earn such blessings.


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Allowing in the Light

As most of you already know, I teach World Geography and have always been passionate about helping kids develop a better understanding of people from other places, cultures, and circumstances.

Just wanted to share an article of mine that was recently published in the educational magazine, Teaching Tolerance.  It talks about one of my favorite teaching projects…my World Geography Book Club!  This is year four (I think?), and we are still going and growing!

I couldn’t do it without my partner in crime, Brad Haertling, a.k.a. the Pedaling Pioneer, as well as the support of our sponsor, Southeast Health and our JMS Library!

Check it out!

 “Allowing in the Light”  By:  Chelsea Tornetto

Above Photo Credit:  Teaching Tolerance Magazine, Fall Issue, 2017
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An Open Letter to the Retail World from a Millennial Mom

Dear World of Retail:

I know there’s been a lot of talk lately about how the traditional world of retail is dying.  Shopping mall stalls stand empty, department stores struggle to survive, and Amazon is slowly taking over the known universe.  

It might be true.  

But women still love to shop.  Trust me.  It’s relaxing to wander the aisles of Target sipping my Starbucks and deciding between two throw pillows I don’t need.  It’s a social event when a friend and I meet up at the mall for lunch and a new pair of boots at Macy’s.  If you ask me, there’s another reason why we aren’t flocking to your doors.

We’re all freaking exhausted.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016, my generation, the Millennials, passed up the Baby Boomers to become the biggest demographic in the U.S. with about 83 million people.  More of those families than ever before have both parents working full-time outside the home.  And lots of us are parents.  8 out of 10 babies born in 2015 were born to Millennials.  

And have you ever tried to take a kid shopping?  

It’s. Not. Fun.  

Forget sipping Starbucks – I’m too busy digging a leaky sippy cup out of my purse.  A casual stroll around the mall?  How about a mad dash to the nearest restroom because someone has to potty RIGHT NOW.  Honestly, sometimes…it’s just not worth it.

You want to get us offline and back to the stores?  Help us, help you.

Here are 5 things you could do for which all of us Millennial Moms would be eternally grateful:

1. Put in a drive thru.  Seriously.  Why does WalMart not have this yet?  Why doesn’t EVERY store?  You want to put a limit on how many or which items I can purchase through the window?  Fine.  I’m not talking about a week’s worth of groceries here.  Just let me swing by the window and send one of your employees to run and grab me a gallon of milk, a box of diapers…and maybe a king size Twix bar…without unloading a car seat.  Please.  

I know what you’re thinking, CEOs.  “But we want you to actually come all the way inside!  That way we can trick you into buying all kinds of crap you didn’t even know you wanted!”  Well, see, here’s the thing.  Because you are so dead set on that strategy, millions of us are signing up with online subscription programs that will deliver all the things we need right to our door on a weekly basis.  I personally haven’t caved yet, but every time I have to park a mile away and tow the kids across that parking lot and through that checkout line, I get a little bit closer.  I promise, if you put in a drive-thru, you will be my new favorite store, and the number of visits I make to pick up forgotten cupcake ingredients and toilet paper will more than make up for any impulse sales you would have made by forcing me to drag a grumpy toddler down the aisles.

2.  Get your shopping carts in gear.  Whatever genius invented this monstrosity deserves to push it around purgatory forever:  

Note:  This is not my kiddo!  This photo is from the blog “A Healthy Slice of Life.” But I bet she feels my pain about these stupid carts! 🙂 

I’m surprised it doesn’t beep loudly when I back it up…which I have to do a lot because it turns corners like a damn semi-truck.  And because it just wasn’t annoying enough, some idiot decided it needed seat belts.  The thing is literally 6 inches off the ground!  My child thinks those stupid straps are a game provided for his amusement.  “Buckle me!”  “Unbuckle me!”  “I want down!”  And if the kids aren’t playing with them, they’re fighting over them, or whining about them.  Only about 5% of the time are they actually wearing them.  I think I’ll take my chances on that dangerous six inch drop, thanks.

3.  Put in more potties.  Why does every mall or discount store in America have just one stinkin’ bathroom that’s tucked away in the farthest reaches of space and time? This is 2017.  We can’t install a few more restrooms and distribute them evenly in a shopping space?  Because you know the kids are going to wait until we are at the farthest point from said bathroom (probably navigating a tricky corner in my semi-truck) before they realize they need to go.  It’s science.  And while we’re on the subject, how about you put just one sink low enough for a 3-year-old to reach it?  Truth?  Sometimes we settle for hand sanitizer….or a Kleenex…rather than even attempt the death defying contortionist act it takes to lift him up with one arm while working the water and (usually empty) soap dispenser with the other.   (Maybe I’ll start a boycott until Target meets my bathroom demands! 😉  Too soon?)

4.  Get with the times.  Even the gas pump has a screen to entertain me while I pump my gas.  So does the table at Olive Garden or Applebees.  Want to get me shopping again?  Strap one of those puppies on every cart (maybe you could re-purpose those safety belts!) and load it up with games or videos for kids.  Sure, I could give them my phone…because I enjoy having it dropped every five seconds and looking down to see them deleting all my contacts with their sticky little fingers.  But help a mother out!  Better yet, take a page out of Ikea’s book and provide in-store childcare.  Those Swedes sure do know their millennials…and their meatballs.

5.  Remember your manners.  Yes, I know, you already open the door for me, and no, I’m not suggesting that you start sending me thank you notes after every visit.  I’m saying, train your employees to be a little bit more helpful.  I can’t remember the last time a retail employee asked if I’d like help getting my fully loaded semi-truck to my car.  The cart cowboy at Walmart the other day appeared out of nowhere and offered to take my cart to the nearest corral and I almost cried from gratitude.  (I didn’t because I was distracted by my 3-year-old who was about to run into traffic and my 7-year-old who wanted me to watch a new dance move she had just created in the produce section.)  My point is, maybe if your customer service was a little more Chik-fil-a and a little less…Charter…you might find that we come in more often…and have enough energy left when we get home to rave about you on Twitter!

6.  Convince me it’s worth it.  Even if you did take all the advice provided above, getting out and about with kids in tow is still exhausting.  If I’m going to do it, I need to be reasonably sure it’s going to be worth my effort.  So let me see what I’ll be getting.  I know this one is a long shot, but mommas, imagine if every store’s website was equipped with a 360° video of the aisles and displays.  Just like Google Earth – where you can navigate up and down the aisles as if you’re there.  So if I’m wondering if you carry that very specific doll my daughter wants for her birthday, but I don’t want to park and run inside five different stores (loading and unloading that car seat 10 times, by the way), I can check it out online first.  

Again, I know what you’re thinking.  Isn’t this really just “online shopping 2.0”?  Technically…yes.  But again – we millennial moms really do still WANT to shop in-store.  And lots of times I need something faster than even Amazon can get it to me, or I need to actually try it on or hold it in my hands.  And if I like what I see from my computer, I’d be happy to come in…and a MUCH happier customer, which means I’ll come back to you time and time again.  If I don’t like what I see…well…then I guess I’ll end up shopping online anyway…but it might be on your website…I’m already there using that awesome new 360° camera feature, after all!

The bottom line is, we millennials are busier and more exhausted than the Baby Boomers, and we have very little patience for all those old retail “tricks” designed to get and keep customers in your stores.   In fact…they kind of piss us off.  (You know…like how you put the milk way at the back?  We hate you.)  In a world where online shopping is always an easy alternative…you are going to have to give up on trying to manipulate us into spending more time and money per visit – and start focusing on making those visits so quick, easy, and enjoyable that we actually start looking forward to shopping again!  

Until then…just pray that our kids are in good moods and that we’re strong enough to ignore the siren song of Amazon Prime…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to run in to Walmart….there are just a couple things I need….

Anything I’ve left out?  Add your own “requests” for the world of retail in the comments below!  


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Could you, or someone you love, be suffering from BTSD?

Are you a teacher in grades pre-K through twelve, who is currently experiencing feelings of anxiety, confusion, and a general lack of motivation?  Do you find yourself struggling to remember what day of the week it is?  Or fighting an urge to run as you pass the school supply aisles at Walmart?  

If so, you could be suffering from BTSD – Back-to-School Disorder.

BTSD is a serious condition affecting more than 3 million educators every year.  Symptoms may include Netflix bingeing,  frantically crossing things off of summer to-do lists, and angrily warning your children and spouse not to wake you up before nine because you “only have 2 more weeks to sleep in.”  Additional symptoms may include actively avoiding checking your school email, refusing to look at a calendar, and having vivid nightmares about walking into a classroom naked.  While some patients with BTSD suffer all summer long, many go undiagnosed until late July and early August, when rising levels of school supply ads on television make symptoms worse.

People suffering from BTSD are often misdiagnosed with a split personality disorder.  They suffer from mood swings.  They can often be seen perusing school supply ads with a gleam in their eyes, only to turn and throw the papers violently in the trash muttering, “Too soon!”  They may talk excitedly about their plans to differentiate instruction this year, and then quite without warning, shake their head violently and turn and cannonball into the nearest pool.  

If you or a loved one is struggling with BTSD, ask your doctor about Schoolabrex.

Schoolabrex is a once daily capsule that works with your body to prepare you for a smooth return to a normal school schedule.  Thanks to Schoolabrex’s proprietary blend of all natural ingredients – including responsibly sourced tears of problem students, organic hand sanitizer, and Red Bull – teachers who took Schoolabrex reported an 80% reduction in the number of times they hit the snooze button during the first week of school.  60% of patients exhibited increased participation in icebreaker activities during in-service days, and some patients even reported feeling, “excited” about recess duty.

Schoolabrex is not for everyone.  Do not take Schoolabrex if you are nursing, pregnant…or one of those annoyingly cheerful people who has been decorating your classroom all summer anyway.  Do not take Schoolabrex if you take nitrates for chest pain, and ask your doctor about how Schoolabrex may interact with other medications you are taking.  (Alcohol is okay.)   While taking Schoolabrex, you should not drive or operate the copy machine until you know how Schoolabrex affects you.

In rare cases Schoolabrex can cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure and marathon trips to Staples.  If you experience a trip to Staples lasting longer than 4 hours, get medical help right away.  

Other common side effects may include:

Chest pain, dizziness, desire to urinate only when a bell rings, headache, dry mouth, nausea, addiction to coffee and/or Diet Coke, hallucinations, constipation, upset stomach, overwhelming desire to sharpen pencils, deepening of the voice (often called “teacher voice”), loss of vision, numbness or tingling in your hands or feet, and impulsive laminating.  If you notice these or any new or worsening symptoms, please call your doctor.  

Going back to school can be hard!  Schoolabrex can help!  Ask your doctor about Schoolabrex today!

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People of the Water Park

Hello all!  

Here is a special summer post in honor of a recent trip to the local water park!  If you are lucky enough to go there, or to any water park, sometime soon, here are two fun scavenger hunts to keep you busy!  😉  Enjoy, and Happy Summer!


Each tattoo spotted is worth 1 point.  5 bonus points if you find a misspelled word OR if you spot 3 or more of the tattoos listed on one person.  I DO NOT recommend trying to take pictures as evidence – just use the honor system!  Whoever has the most points by the time you leave wins.  

  1. A skull
  2. A cartoon character
  3. Barbed wire
  4. A rose
  5. A woman’s name
  6. A Chinese character (Bonus point if you ask the person what it means, and they can actually tell you)
  7. A face tattoo
  8. A gun or knife
  9. A bible verse
  10. A butterfly
  11. A clock
  12. An eagle
  13. A sports team logo
  14. A whole back tattoo
  15. The infinity symbol
  16. A “tramp stamp”  (I’m told this is the name for a tattoo on the lower back, just above your bottom.)
  17. A Confederate flag
  18. A full sleeve tattoo
  19. A tribal tattoo
  20. A portrait of a loved one


Each item spotted is worth 1 point.  5 point bonus if you find multiple items on one person.  Again, put those cameras away, folks…No one wants to remember most of these anyway!  Whoever has the most points by the time you leave wins.  

  1. A coin slot (Tessa taught me this term for when your crack is showing!  Ha!)
  2. A used band aid
  3. A t-shirt worn as a bathing suit
  4. A mole the size of a dime or larger  (Bonus point for each hair growing out of it…but you’ll have to get close enough to count.)
  5. A booger  
  6. A REALLY bad tan line (Like…I’ve-been-mowing-grass-in-shorts-everyday-since-I-was-born bad)
  7. A hairball
  8. More than 5 tattoos on one body
  9. A saggy diaper
  10. More than 5 inches of cleavage on one body
  11. Someone picking a wedgie
  12. Bacne
  13. A belly button ring
  14. an ankle monitor
  15. A pregnant woman in a bikini  
  16. Someone sleeping
  17. Tweenagers in love
  18. A smiling lifeguard  (This one might be impossible….)
  19. A scar  (Bonus point if you can get the scoop on how they got it!)
  20. An obnoxiously loud child  (Bonus point if you witness him or her jumping on top of another swimmer)

Have fun!  Maybe I’ll see you there!

Posted in Uncategorized

Like it or not…We’ve changed “the news.”

By: Chelsea Tornetto

We live in a society that demands instant gratification.  We eat fast food, buy our insurance in 15 minutes or less, and download our entertainment instantly on our smartphones.  I get it.  I hate to wait.  I’m the first one to grumble and tap my fingers impatiently when a web page is loading at a snail’s pace, or to grind my teeth when I’m stuck behind a slow-walker at the mall.  But somewhere between the McDonald’s drive through and our unlimited, high-speed data plans, we took things a step too far.  We allowed our need for speed to surpass our desire to know the truth.  

Before the dawn of social media, the majority of Americans learned about world events by watching the nightly news on the major networks.  This news was gathered and reported by journalists who, by and large, took pride in reporting the facts regardless of politics or personal beliefs.  There was an intangible sense that journalism was a field akin to law enforcement or scientific research, where professionals followed the evidence wherever it led them, and reported their findings without bias, regardless of their hypotheses.  I can remember learning about Upton Sinclair and the ethical responsibilities of journalists in high school and developing a great deal of respect for the people who researched, wrote, and broadcast the news.  In my mind, they were like the crime fighters of the world of information – making sure politicians, business tycoons, or others with agendas, weren’t allowed to hide the truth or feed me lies.  Their job was to guard against spin.

Those kinds of journalists are absolutely still out there.  I don’t, for a minute, think there is a lack of good journalism in America today.  Rather, I think the trouble is that an entirely new genre of news-as-entertainment has blurred the lines between news and editorialism, and we, as consumers, can’t be bothered to differentiate between the two.  

Why did this happen?  How did Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock…and whatever documentary is trending on Netflix, become our go-to sources of “news?”  When did we decide that we would rather listen to someone else’s opinion, than be responsible for forming our own?

It was when we first saw that little blue thumbs up symbol, that America lost its ever-loving mind.  

Facebook’s “like” button, changed the way the world read, produced, and disseminated news by allowing networks to see, in a totally new way, exactly what types of shows, articles, videos, and reports were gaining the most attention.  A news piece that was liked and shared the most, brought in more viewers, and of course, more money.  To capitalize on this, networks began to produce and promote more of the editorial, and sometimes sensational, content viewers “liked.”  As they began to give an equal amount of time to these pieces as they did to strictly informative ones,  the public began to give the former equal weight.  And then, to make matters worse, it wasn’t just the traditional, experienced, trusted news networks publishing news anymore.  Suddenly, ANYONE with a computer could be a journalist.  And the more “likes” something got, the more legitimate it appeared to be.  

Now, in truth, this movement towards news-as-entertainment, and the fast-and-loose use of the term “journalist,” was probably already happening.  But the “like” button very effectively turned the traditional role of news on it’s head.   Instead of the news existing to inform citizens, the citizens were now informing the press of just what they wanted the news to be.  The students had taken charge of the classroom.  

But that’s not all.  

The moment we read something on Facebook, we can share it.   We feel a strange sense of satisfaction and dare I say, belonging, when we check back in and find that someone else has “liked” the article or video we shared.  This makes us want to share more, and “like” more…and just generally put our opinions out there…more.  And sharing opinions is great, IF – and this is a big if – they are reasoned opinions.  Opinions formed from knowledge, facts, logic, and moral grounding.  

And who has the time to do all that CRITICAL THINKING when that little thumbs up is staring you in the face?  Do you “like” this or not?  Quick!  If you keep scrolling or click away to do some research or think about it for minute, you might miss your chance to share your opinion with the world!  That won’t do at all!  Just make your decision based on the title….and maybe the picture.  Nevermind it was published by “Buzzfeed.”  Your 4,215 “friends” need to know!

So we like, and share, and comment  (oh, the comments…) all without Walter Cronkite or Ted Koppel and their teams to verify sources and tell us whether what we are reading is even true.  And you know what’s really scary?  We don’t really care if it’s true or not.  Because we “like” it!  It matches our beliefs, our biases.  It supports what we love, or attacks what we hate.  The truth becomes secondary to the feeling it gives us.  After all…what could be more important than how we feel?  We create our own social media echo-chamber to make sure we always have a “safe space” where we are guaranteed to feel good…where everybody “likes” us.

Social media and its subsequent impact on news, has done for critical thinking what fast food did to nutrition.  It has cheapened our tastes and made us crave instant information and interaction, rather than substantive knowledge.  Worse, just as fast food has led to a generation of young people who have lost the skill of cooking, social media, as a filter for news, has led to a generation who don’t have a clue how to evaluate whether that news is credible, or crap.  

We need to fix it.  Just as we need to teach the next generation the skill of cooking and the value of sharing a home cooked meal with family.  Just as we need to remind them of the joys of playing outside instead of staring at a screen, or convince them that a face-to-face conversation can be so much better than a text message.  We need to fix it, because what’s at stake now isn’t just our health or our social skills – it’s our democracy!  After all, who’s to blame for the impact of “fake news” on voters…the people who write it….or the idiots who believe it?

So, the next time you read something on Facebook, first of all, really read it.  Read the byline, the author’s credentials, and the “About Us” page of the publisher.  Next, Google whatever the article is about.  Read at least two other articles on the same topic from other reputable news sources.  Purposely seek out and read sources that contradict your own gut reactions and personal beliefs.  Have an actual conversation with someone who seems knowledgeable about the subject, and be civil.  Compare facts.  Watch for spin.  Be critical.  Sound like a lot of work?  It is!  Want to avoid it?  Too bad.  You are a responsible adult citizen of the most powerful democracy on earth.  Do your job…or please stop voting.

But it’s just a “like,” you say.  What’s the big deal?  I’m not responsible for being an expert on everything I like on Facebook!  Maybe not.  But likes turn into shares, and shares turn into public misconceptions, and public misconceptions turn into votes, and votes turn into policy.    And that’s a big responsibility.   

After all, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”  Well, I’m doing my best with the 120 middle schoolers that sit in my classroom each year, but it’s the adults I’m worried about.  

Oh…and please share this article with your 4,215 friends.   I hope they “like” it!