Organization is Everywhere: Teavana Tea Wall

I began drinking tea when I lived in France and I often felt peer-pressured by colleagues to drink some kind of hot beverage during our break. I was not interested in coffee, but tea with sugar was acceptable to me then. In the last year, I started drinking more loose-leaf tea and got hooked on Teavana. I understand that they are Starbucks corporate-evil (and overpriced) and the employees basically work on commission (caveat emptor), but man, their tea is YUMMY! My faves: Youthberry, Precious White Peach, Caramel Chai, Cha Ven Thai and others… I have about 20 kinds at home, and they are “organized” in jars in six stacks of three, with some stragglers that I don’t have jars for right now.

Teavana sells its tea either by the cup (prepared) or in bulk with a 2-oz minimum. (Note: rip-off to buy a cup. Also note: they will upsell you–“Is 2.4oz okay?”) Along the back wall, they have all their teas displayed in color-coded tins, based on what kind of tea it is. The display is kind of rainbow-like, with the teas alphabetized within their grouping.

I am not sure how they decided the order of color-coded types: it’s not alphabetical since it starts with white tea, then green tea, then oolong, then maté, etc. I’m not sure it’s by caffeine-content either, but maybe the higher caffeine teas are in the middle. My guess is that it’s purely aesthetic, for the rainbow effect. The arrangement is basically the same from store to store and you can see an interactive version here.

  1. What is being organized? bulk tea
  2. Why is it being organized? sales, aesthetics, ease of retrieval for employees
  3. How much of it is being organized? all bulk teas, except for prepackaged blends for gift sets
  4. When is it being organized? Whenever a new variety of tea is launched, they probably have to rearrange and replace one of the tins on the wall.
  5. How or by whom, or by what computational processes, is it being organized? The Teavana corporate types tell the stores how they will display it; the stores comply.

Comic Sans? Really?

I saw this on Twitter a while back:

Sigh… No. I will not defend a 20 year-old fad. No.

A colleague brought my attention to the movement to ‘weaponize Comic Sans‘… Really, does it make me a web-hipster to hate the font? Come on.

I still say no one takes Comic Sans font-users seriously, except maybe 3rd graders. An elementary teacher friend of mine likes to set it as her default because “it’s the only one that looks like handwriting and it helps the kids with their penmanship.” Oh, lord. There are such better choices.

In case you are unaware of the argument I support, consider the Ban Comic Sans website or Comic Sans Criminal.

Humorous anecdote

My department at my old job knew my distaste for the font and humored me by using other fonts for fliers instead if they knew I had to look at/share/use them. Right before I left, the new supervisor in charge of us made a bunch of yucky changes and followed up with some “rah-rah” leadership emails written in PURPLE Comic Sans.

I guffawed (if that is possible for someone under 60) and thought, “Oh, she has no idea how deep she just dug her own hole with me.” Even if I had wanted to be open-minded, I simply couldn’t at that point. 😉 My colleagues were very amused.

The alternatives

There are other fonts out there. For example, these: or these: or these: A quick Google search actually comes up with tons of suggestions!

If your reasons are for dyslexia, no worries there either: Or this (plus a dictionary!):

When should you use Comic Sans?

Jason Brubaker at ReMIND gives us 30 reasons. Consider #1: “When accompanied by Braille.” Also, #20: “You’re writing a letter to your clown friend.” Good reasons.

A look at the genealogy form

This February, I was out in Salt Lake City for a snowboard trip, and while there, I spent an evening après-ski at the LDS Family History Museum. (I’m not LDS, but their genealogy library is a-maz-ing, and when in Rome…) Anyway, long story short, part of the experience was a “guided introduction” to the genealogy tool with my own personal church elder.

The thing about the way FamilySearch works, compared to for example, is once you’ve entered enough of your family tree that it overlaps with the content of another user’s research, your content merges and you’ve basically crowd-sourced your research (for the good and the bad–errors and all). It’s nearly as powerful as, but free.

The initial form that FamilySearch uses takes you through entering information about your father, your mother, your father’s father, your father’s mother, your mother’s father, your mother’s mother, etc. to build your tree. It allows you to skip family members or details that you don’t have information on (recommended so that you don’t taint others’ trees). Once you register, the form is available here:

It’s a pretty nice way to enter genealogy information because it is linear and guided. The caveat is that once you leave the series of forms, by clicking out to another part of the website, you can’t go back. When you try to return to your tree, you get the bare structure of the tree, not the form. This is what happened to me in SLC when I was working with Elder Summers (and he didn’t know how to get back to it).

The other day, I was doing a “family tree research” workshop with high school students during an enrichment period and it happened to a student. I did manage to peek at the URL of another student’s browser, and try the “first-run” path and it worked for her, since she wasn’t very far. However, I am beyond that point in my use of the site that the handy-dandy guided form is not available.

So, final analysis: nice form if you can get it!

The New Job

I’ve refrained from saying a lot, but the news is out. About three weeks ago, I resigned as a high school/middle school ESL teacher. About two weeks ago, I started as the high school library media specialist in a new district. Many have shared their congratulations, which is sweet, but congratulations have been hard for me to accept. While I ultimately have been looking forward to making this change eventually, I ethically have a problem with breaking a contract (that’s why it’s a contract, you know–because you make a commitment), but the circumstances were such that I did it anyway.

As I considered the possibility, I ultimately landed on a dating analogy about how sometimes you spend too much time with someone who is good enough, but ultimately you know it’s probably not what you want for yourself.

For the record, the political climate here in Wisconsin in regards to public education has made this an even more difficult–and expensive–feat. For example, the fine was five percent of my salary. Do the math in your own life; who has that kind of money to throw around? Not me. The adage that “if you don’t like it, find something else to do” is a pretty tall order. But trapped animal that I was in this situation, I chose my happiness. That is all I will say.

It has been wild trying to properly wrap up one job that I was deeply invested in and learn a new one at the same time. The position was empty for the first week of school (and the teacher prep-time the week before), so there was also a bit of catch up to do. It is also very peculiar to go into a job not as an expert, but as a rookie again. This is my first real experience in a school library. (So far, I am so thankful for everything I’ve learned working with children’s literature at the CCBC! What a life-changer!)

So the new job… well, I find myself looking forward to going to work on Monday morning. (By Thursday and Friday morning, I feel exhausted as usual when I get up, but at least it’s not dread!) I was starting to forget that feeling! The school is a one-to-one school, actually the district grades 4-12 is one-to-one–this means that every student has their own school-issued Chromebook. (They lease every three years. Outside of that, I don’t know how they pay.) Every teacher has a MacBook Air and they teach on an A-B block (four periods that meet every other day). Also there is a homeroom/flex period for enrichment/support/remediation that teachers personally schedule the kids in. Every staff member–including the principal, counselor, librarian, etc. participates in the scheduling and teaching of the flex period.

A large part of my responsibilities now is to manage the flow of broken and repaired Chromebooks and our loaners. Lots of cracked screens and charger port problems (this is year 3 of the lease). A big perk I’m noticing about all the kids having a uniform device like a Chromebook is that we can pass along a lot of our messages to students through email or chat–thus eliminating the constant overhead announcements like “Will so-and-so please report to the attendance office? So-and-so to the attendance office” that kill your ears all day long. It is just so much calmer without that. Also, it is sooooooo cool to look around at students productively working on their devices–not just Facebook and YouTube.

My new school has a great reading culture going on, and it seems like a lot of kids approach me looking for “a good book” (dream come true!). I am also trying to wrap my head around the budget money I have available and getting some orders pushed through. I am also working on setting up a MinecraftEDU server because I have this tremendous pile of teenage boys who come in during “breakfast break” and sit on my library couches playing Minecraft on their respective personal mobile devices. What an opportunity! My principal is really hoping to re-work a back room in the library and have me create a Makerspace area in there too. What an even bigger opportunity!

Wish me luck, clarity and grace as I travel down this road. I feel like it was the right, err, a good, umm, a solid decision. I pray that I look back on this tumultuous August someday with affection and relief.

The Transplant

So, I kind of gave up. My jelly jar herbs didn’t work out so well. Leaves were yellowing or falling off. The rocks at the bottom of the jars were growing algae. I just didn’t know what to do. Plus, I don’t think they ever would have grown big enough in the jars for me to harvest the two tablespoons of cilantro or whatever that my recipes always seem to call for–without stripping/killing the entire plant!

Nearly 3 months after I started with the jars, I made the trip to Home Depot for some bigger pots and new Miracle Grow soil. I also made a stop at the grocery store and picked up four of the potted herb plants they had outside on clearance.

My plan was to give each herb a little more space and either use the store-bought starter plant and my home-grown ones, plus another round of seeds to bulk up the foliage. I selected window boxes that I should be able to find a place for indoors and maybe keep them going through the winter (that will be the test!) I’m hoping that I’ll also get permission to use a certain fancy coral reef lamp from the abandoned saltwater aquarium in our living room…

On August 6, 2014, I “gardened” on the deck in the afternoon heat and got all sweaty and dirty. I transplanted seven herbs, plus a little jalapeño plant, into two 24-inch long garden boxes. I added a little more dirt the next day, but here’s how they looked that afternoon:

garden boxes leftgarden boxes right

chives (mine + help), parsley (mine + help), oregano (yeah, not mine), jalapeño (all mine)

chives (mine + help), parsley (mine + help), oregano (yeah, not mine), jalapeño (all mine)

dill (sadly, mine), basil (also, mine), cilantro (c'mon lil buddy!), mint (mine + help--guess which)

dill (sadly, mine), basil (also, mine), cilantro (c’mon lil buddy!), mint (mine + help–guess which)

I’m hoping they make it and I will have earned my pale green thumb. The sickly yellow one I’ve got going now is a little embarrassing!

Jelly Jar Herbs: Week 5

It’s like I’ve stunted my oregano’s growth! What am I doing wrong?!

This week, my darlings moved out[side] and they got an extra drink mid-week because I was worried they might be dehydrated. But… this is the kind of behavior that brings out the self-fulfilling prophecy side of me. (In case you didn’t know, I am a confessed plant-killer.) So, what do I do?


Plants for a Plant Killer

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Admittedly, I am a plant-killer. Some of my friends might remember my experiments with rosemary Christmas trees back in my 20s. (They smell soooooooooo good!)

Three of these beauties had to die before I hung up my gardener’s gloves. There obviously were no green thumbs inside those gloves anyway. It took me less than a week to kill the third plant.

So I gave up. Horticulture is not one of my strengths.

Recently, I saw a kit for herbs that you could grow in jelly jars for sale. The best part: you only were supposed to water them once a week to a predetermined level (the rock line). I thought, “Now this, I could do!”

Heck, even though it costs me less than a dollar a pop when I buy fresh herbs at the grocery store, it might be sort of nice to waste less and just have them handy when I want them. Jelly jars means they are portable and I can keep them on my deck if I want. Plus, there is a slightly smaller chance of mess or insects–which is important to me, since I don’t like bugs or getting dirty.

After a trip to Home Depot and Walmart, I came home with seeds, potting soil, pea gravel, perlite and half-pint jelly jars. Total cost: $27.53.

seedsI planted basil, dill, oregano, cilantro, parsley, spearmint and chives. (I also did a jar and a planter of jalepeños because I thought that might be fun–I have no idea if a jalepeño plant could be constrained to a small jar though, thus the planter.)

On May 7, the experiment began:

Jars 5-7-14




Much Ado About Me?!

Herb KohlOn a personal note, if you hadn’t heard, I was named one of 100 educators in the state of Wisconsin to be honored as a 2014 Kohl Excellence in Education fellow. (These are the teachers that are then considered for the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year Award… I actually met our winner at a Read On Wisconsin Advisory Committee meeting a few weeks back. She is an 8th grade language arts teacher from Baraboo and is far more worthy than me!)

Kohl FellowThe Kohl Award is a big deal and a big honor. They printed a wonderful article about me in the local newspaper last week. I am so very humbled!

WIABE awardAlso, back in April I was honored at the Wisconsin Association of Bilingual Education as one of 13 “Educators of the Year.” Talk about a humbling experience! I was presented with a beautiful glass award and congratulated by all sorts of bilingual educators and supporters.

Now, I am proud of the work I do, but when in such company, I definitely don’t feel worthy. I am a long ways from being qualified enough to be a licensed bilingual teacher. It was the second time I had attended this conference, and I was reminded of how far I have to go.

The reason I bring it up, though, is because it really made me think. If you have ever seen a bilingual or dual-language classroom, it is remarkable. These are people who are truly bilingual (whereas I am “good enough” with Spanish) working with little kids, teaching them to be fully biliterate. These are the people who NEED quality bilingual books and Spanish-language books to be published, because these children depend on them!

Bilingual Educators of the Year

Photo Credit:

One of my high school students was honored at the same conference yesterday for winning the essay contest at the high school level. I work with a lot of bilingual kids, but the bilterate piece (reading and writing, not just oral/aural proficiency) is much more elusive. His winning essay was about how he doesn’t feel like he is bilingual or biliterate yet but can see the value in it and wants to keep working on it. It’s easy to get swept up in the language of the dominant culture, and let heritage languages go.

Melvin got to read his essay in front of the group gathered at the Wisconsin Association for Bilingual Education on April 12, 2014. He did an amazing job. Here is a video of his “performance”:

It’s kids like him who deserve the recognition… I’m just along for the ride!

(P.S. One of my teacher friends is a big proponent of “Things come in 3s”… and she insists that I’ve got another thing coming. I’m hoping that if she’s right that the hail-damage to my car last week wasn’t it–I’d much prefer an engagement ring or winning the lottery. Heck, I’d even take some free tuition money!)