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Niente Senza Gioia!--Nothing without joy!
The senior-itis is a hard-core beast to fight. I can finally call it senior-itis because I'll be done soon. For this, we can all be grateful.

So, there's this stellar teacher whose name and work keeps popping up all over the place. First, I began reading one of his books, then people posted an article he recently wrote for CNN on facebook. Finally, there is an excerpt from one of his books in this month's teachers.net magazine. (yeah. those magazines excite me way too much...nerd alert!) Anyway, his name is Ron Clark and he fascinates me. He is a super visionary; he taught for a while, didn't like a lot of what he saw in the schools and so he opened his own in Atlanta Georgia. The school is incredible. It admits students in fifth-grade and those students attend until eighth-grade graduation. As part of the four-year global studies curriculum, students travel to sixcontinents and are pushed far beyond grade level expectations in their academic work. Standards are extremely high but the teachers are hired based on their abilities to plan "out-of-the-box" instruction. (there are fantastic youtube videos of the songs these kids sing about math concepts; they crack me up.) The Ron Clark Academy, as this super modest guy decided to name his school, is even innovative in its appearance. He took incredible steps to make sure that every child knows that RCA is like their home. My favorite feature is the slide going from the top floor into the lobby. RCA was rejected by twenty-seven ensurance companies due to liability issues with this thing, but they apparently got it figured out and it is now a trademark of the school. Ron Clark is clearly an extremely passionate and dedicated teacher. He admits students each year across the spectrum of academic performance to include struggling students, "average" students and those who are gifted. So I'm reading his book about his methods and such, I visited his school's website and I'm totally intrigued by all of this. For whatever reason, however, I can't get over the fact that his website says that students with IEP's or those needing special accomodations "need not apply" due to the "inability to provide special services." I'm sorry, but in a school that bends over backwards to include all children, to lift students up to their highest levels of achievement blablablabla...this just doesn't seem like an okay excuse. I just found this to be shocking. I know. I'm a freakish idealist who eats, sleeps and breathes my crazy inclusion philosophy. I realize where a school like this may not be able to accomodate kids with severe educational support requirements or whatever, but if you go to such lengths to promote this "can-do" atitude, it all just seems slightly ironic to me. Again, I'm not saying all kids would be eligible; I'm just saying it's a shame that such a broad statement was made in admission requirements thereby disqualifying many students. RCA's other agenda is to educate teachers around the world about its approaches. Methinks I'd like to go visit RCA, go down the slide and ask a few questions to make Mr. Clark squirm...just a little.

Anyway, laundry calleth.

Niente Senza Gioia!

Current Mood: full of beans

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Aggie and I are home now. Our last week of training was very exciting and very busy; this is why I am just now finishing this particular blog experience. This could break my record for longest LJ post because I'm too lazy to mess with all of that backdating stuff. You'll live.

We went to New York and it was amazing. Aggie got some good practice weaving through chaos on busy sidewalks. We walked through Central Park and Times Square. There were people dressed up like Cookie Monster, Elmo and Buzz Lightyear hanging out in Times Square. I'm still not really sure why, but Buzz looked at Aggie and Aggie got so startled that she laid down in the middle of the sidewalk. She recovered quickly and we finished our walk without further issues. We ate lunch at a brewery restaurant and then headed back to TSE. It was an awesome experience.
I had my exit interview that afternoon. After dinner, we had a lecture about taking our dogs home. It was long and people asked impressively strange questions. After our nightly routine of parking and grooming, Aggie and I crashed

We finally went to a pet store tuesday morning. Aggie acquired a pink dragon toy and some fancy healthy dog treats. In the afternoon, we went to Madison (think hotdog sauce lol). We worked on clicker training teaching the dogs to target light posts. When we returned to TSE, Aggie and I had our vet visit. The doctor told me about Aggie's medical history. Apparently Aggie has extra eyelashes which amused me...there is a fancy medical term for "has excessive eyelashes..." During the vet visit, Aggie got her microchip injected; she was a very good patient. After dinner, we had our final lecture about dog attacks. Put your dogs on a leash and if you can't control them, leave them at home in a fence. If you don't, your dog could endanger a service dog's life. The awareness is good, but I was glad that was the final lecture. After parking and grooming, I stayed up causing chaos and such; all of a sudden I became aware that my time with all of these fascinating people would be ending soon and so my "I'll sleep later..." mentality kicked in. Good conversations were had and I didn't go to bed too late that day.

On wednesday morning, we returned to Madison. The purpose of this trip was to simulate having our dogs working in an unfamiliar area. Aggie did really well and she made me excited to bring her home. We had a presentation about pet ensurance just before lunch.
In the afternoon, we went to a different petstore to get ID tags. Aggie's ID tag is a big heart that says her name and my cell phone number. After the pet store adventure, our instructors bought us coffee which was amazing. My final Morristown adventure with Aggie was a trip to a preschool to experience little children. She did well with the little ones, but I expect she'll be a pro before long as she'll have frequent exposure to a 2-year-old while living in Spokane. The rest of wednesday consisted of packing, dog routines and socializing with my classmates.

I woke up at 4:00 A.M. Aggie and I had a travel buddy from Jersey to Seattle as my godmother was also taking this flight home from a business trip. Aggie was startled by take-off the first time and we had an incident of dog-on-airplane-seat during the flight, but overall, she did very well. During our second flight, Aggie basically slept through take-off and when she wanted to get out of her place during landing, I think she was just echoing the sentaments of everyone else who had a long day of traveling...
the rest of thursday was pretty lazy.

Aggie's first full day home was busy. We went with my sister to lunch and a couple of stores to poke at things. We also visited our friend and Aggie was introduced to my 2-year-old "niece."

More adventures to come; we're off to Pullman next week and Aggie will have many more new experiences shortly.

Niente Senza Gioia!

Current Location: Parents' house, spokane

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Aggie and I will soon be leaving with the other retrain in our group. We are bound for New York and I'm super excited. Sunday ended up being slightly more eventful than I expected though and so I thought I'd document stuff in this awkward amount of spare time I have right now.

We went to church with a few other students in the morning. It was a contemporary service that took place in a hotel. This meant that a band played in a room instead of a large sanctuary creating concentrated loudness. Aggie did fine though. This is a good sign because I spend a bit more time than the average person sitting around listening to live music; it's kind of my job... The sermon kind of weirded me out. I don't find childbirth to be disturbing or anything like that, but having the exodus compared to childbirth and explained in terms of plagues as contractions and blood and slime and nonsense just made me go "bleh!" Interesting little church; not sure I'd attend it regularly if I lived here though.

I spent the afternoon reading. I finished a book called "A Dog's Purpose" and I highly recommend it. It will make you laugh, cry and think a lot.

After a lecture on dog massage, I left for a night trip. Aggie works well at night, but she is far more prone to startle at noises and such. Of course, all possible disturbing noises that could be expected were out there during our walk...why the fireworks?

More later. We're leaving for the city!

Niente Senza Gioia!

Current Mood: excited excited

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Aggie and I did country work in the morning. This means we worked on walking in neighborhoods where there is no sidewalk. It is relatively simple to do but it's tedious.

In the afternoon, we took a train to a town that is about 15 minutes from where we caught it. Then we caught a bus to come back to where the car was parked. The town where we waited for the bus was kind of a fascinating place. highlights included a guy with a mysterious monkey puppet and some people who were highly amused when one of their friends sat on a hotdog. They all busted out their cell phones and started taking pictures of his hotdog sauce butt...weird town haha.

We had another clicker training lecture after dinner.

We went on a trip to a drugstore this morning. In the afternoon, Aggie met the resident cat face-to-face. She was so excited that she was shaking and the only thing that I could do to distract her was clicker training practice. I also got Aggie's puppy profile. Aside from the fact that I now know Aggie was raised by adults, that she enjoys swimming and she has had some classroom exposure, I didn't learn much that I hadn't already figured out. She apparently has some hard-core chewing impulses, but I haven't really seen that yet. When i let her off leash, she went to her crate voluntarily and i view this as a good sign.

Tomorrow, I may go to church in the morning and I have the afternoon free. I'll be sure to write after my trip to New York on Monday.

Niente Senza Gioia!

Current Mood: calm calm

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On thursday morning, Aggie and I went to the courthouse. That's a crazy building. We practiced dealing with going through security checks, but of course these aren't nearly as obnoxious as the ones we'll face next week when we come home. When we returned to campus, we had our pictures taken.

In the afternoon, all four students in our class went to a local university to practice campus travel and patterning dogs to find specific buildings. I seriously have the best small group ever and lessons are most fun when all of us go at once. My instructors are also super great. We had another ever-so-slightly traumatic lecture after dinner about the importance of keeping dogs on the leash (seeing eye grads, he read the "dear george letter...")

The rest...
Aggie usually falls asleep when I groom her. Most of the time, she falls asleep when I comb her head...then she snores. It's kind of precious.
We're going to New York next week.
Rumor has it that I'll get to take Aggie to a childcare center for some kid exposure as part of my freelance training. This is being planned because both of the retrains in my group are future teachers. I'm excited to see how Aggie does with this. She is a super layed-back dog.
Aggie and I are experimenting with a soft-sided crate like the kind I want to put in my classroom for her. She seems to like it well enough; the crate could be super useful for us though so hopefully she likes it a bit more eventually.

More later.

Niente senza Gioia!

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I haven't updated in a few days mostly because, up until yesterday, I was just practicing the same route. In retrospect, however, I guess I've been busier than I thought.

We started the Elm Street route. It is a longer route with more complicated intersections. Aggie aced her trafic checks with the Prius again (a classmate of mine has decided the prius is the "evil ghost car"). It was really hot on monday afternoon, so we went to practice grocery store travel instead of the Elm Street route. After dinner, we had a super long lecture about dog food and treats. We were "enlightened" to learn about the various things our dogs could ingest and the resulting traumatic consequences. People asked 15000 ridiculous questions and it was just really long. Don't let your dog eat your underwear...sound good...okay then move on!

We walked the Elm street route twice. It was really nice in the morning; in the afternoon, the dogs had to wear their shoes due to the hot sidewalks. Aggie did really well even with the shoes, but those shoes always inevitably do things to dog brains. The exciting part of tuesday is that Aggie and I got our real harness. Up to this point, we have been using hand-me-down harnesses because these are already worn in and are more comfortable for the dogs. Last time I was here, we had to oil the harnesses ourselves; now, the instructors do the dirty work. Apparently, too many dogs were picking up the oil rags in their mouth. Bad news bears. So, now Aggie and I get to break this harness in and the slimey part will be avoided.

We soloed the Elm Street route in the morning. We started freelance work in the afternoon. Aggie and I went to a department store to practice escalator technique. We're basically pros. We had the vet lecture after dinner; it was shorter than I remember it with less traumatizing stories which I appreciated.

Random stuff that doesn't really fit elsewhere...
I stand undefeated in air hockey as of the composition of this journal entry. As a side note, having two blind people play air hockey makes for highly amusing nonsense and a fairly anticlimactic game because the puck gets lost constantly. Endless amusement.
I overheard a classmate telling a student that his dog wasn't saved yesterday...can't decide whether I'm more amused or disturbed.
I want to go to the pet store.
The maps of the routes we had to learn are incredible.

Niente Senza Gioia!

Current Mood: amused amused

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The Seeing Eye has a couple of resident animals on "staff." There is at least one dog and one cat who live in an office here. I don't remember these critters being here last time. (at some point during class, students will have a chance to take their dogs into a room where the cat lives to see how the dogs react to the presence of the cat). Anyway, friday morning, the cat decided to sit at the gate of the office and taunt the dogs as they walked to the dining room for breakfast. Aggie did not appreciate this very much.
Aggie and I walked the same route as the previous day on friday. We also did another session with the clickers. I think the clickers are kind of magical; so does Aggie.

I soloed my first route with Aggie. (I actually teamed with another classmate, but apparently it still counts...) In the afternoon, I had my final supervised obedience session with Aggie; now I can do obedience with her independently. The class was also given the official tour of the leisure path, which means I can walk outside on this path with Aggie independently. I also started using clicker training with aggie to teach her where my seat is in the dining room. Fun stuff. I enjoy being able to do more with Aggie independently because I feel like it really encourages the bonding process.

I did not have classes today. I just spent time doing things with Aggie. We have been on the leisure path three times. The furthest gazebo is my new favorite reading place.

Oh I almost forgot. I got Aggie's stats. She is 21.5 inches tall and 54 pounds. Her birthday is September 16. She will be two years old on the day of my recital. Precious right? I don't remember the name of her parents, but will post those once I have a chance to ask someone. One of them is Liberty; I just don't remember the other one.

More adventures tomorrow.

Niente Senza Gioia!
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LJ has not been playing nicely this week. Therefore, this entry will cover this whole week so far.

What I wrote Monday:
I had my final Juno walk this morning. It was short because I am a returning student and apparently my instructors had a pretty good idea of a dog that would work well with me.

After lunch, I was finally given my dog. She is a golden retriever named Aggie. I've only been with her for a few hours, but I know she is a champ when it comes to eating and our first walk on the leisure path was really good. She's not a big fan of rain, but we still had a good walk. There are a lot of golden retrievers in my class and of course I approve of this. The majority of dogs in this class are goldens or labs with a few crosses and maybe a shepherd or two; it's kind of hard to keep track.

My major job right now is to convince Aggie that I'm a worthy person to be hanging out with. The instructor who trained her is also teaching in this class; therefore, I get to teach Aggie to follow me and ignore her. This is not going to be an easy task. Aggie has been way more cooperative since her feed and park time though, so I may have earned some points there. She behaved perfectly at dinner tonight and is laying nicely at my feet now. Receiving a new dog marks a major transition period for everyone involved.

Aggie and I had our first walks in town on tuesday. Both our morning and afternoon routes were repetitions of the same basic rectangular route and were closely supervised by our instructors.

The Seeing Eye has also began offering students opportunities to use clicker training with the dogs. Clicker training provides a way to give dog immediate positive feedback when the dog does something well such as find a specific bus stop pole or empty chair in a social setting. The first step for me was to work with Aggie to teach that the clicker noise is a good thing. Dogs are exposed to clickers in training before they are matched with a human; however, they need to learn that I am the new holder of the clicker. Each time I clicked, I wated a couple of seconds and gave Aggie a piece of food. This is why Aggie is in love with her clicker. Oh my this girl takes her eating very, very seriously.

Wednesday, we started learning our first official route. We will walk this route independently on saturday. We also started getting trafic checks during these practice walks. Trafic checks are orchestrated by Seeing Eye staff (and careless drivers not on staff at the school...). They drive a car to create situations where dogs must stop abruptly or move to avoid getting hit. We had two trafic checks in the afternoon; one was planned, one was not, but Aggie did well on both of them.
My day ended with a meeting on transition issues for retrains coming back for successor dogs. Transitioning dogs, for whatever purpose is such a unique experience. I can't express the extent to which I appreciate the Seeing Eye community. These people are fantastic.

Today, we worked our route in the morning in much the same way as we did yesterday. This time, I worked with a classmate. There was also a planned dog distraction on the route.
The afternoon consisted of a meeting where Aggie got her shoes (The Seeing Eye now uses the kind that are identical to the ones I bought Z after leaving the school and experiencing snow with him). Aggie was really excited about this box that contained her shoes; I have a sneaking suspicion this enthusiasm for the shoe concept won't last through the winter, but she definitely knew the contents of that box belonged to her.
Today ended with a lecture where Aggie received her Kong. I consider this to be an enormous blessing as Aggie needed a better carry-around toy. Up to this point, her favorite activity with the bone has been to fling it somewhere, bark at and then try her best to get it. The major problem with this, aside from disrupting the neighbors, is that Aggie must be on tie-down or on leash at all times. So, if I can't find the bone, I have to take her off her tie-down, put her on her leash and let her find it. Alternatively, I bust out my cane and wack it out from under my bed where she manages to throw it often. Silly doggy. I am a fan. Really, this whole thing amuses me to no end; can't wait until she can at least be loose in the room.

Aggie is being very good despite the brand new, un-aggied kong waiting for her upstairs. Therefore, I'm going to stop writing...if this thing doesn't post, the computer is going out the window.

Niente Senza Gioia!

Current Location: Tech center

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I flew out of Spokane at 7:00 A.M. My flight to Seattle was short, uneventful and I had no one sitting next to me. My flight from Seattle to Jersey was completely full and, it wasn't so short.
I arrived at the Seeing Eye, unpacked, went to a meeting and did my first Juno walk. Because I have basically no idea who is reading this, I feel the need to clarify. A Juno walk is a walk where the instructor is at the other end of the harness and leash, not a dog. These walks enable instructors to understand things like how quickly a person wants to walk with the dog and how much pull the person wants to feel in the harness. After a tour of the building, I was just really grateful for the 3-hour time change that meant I could crash. I hadn't slept much the night before largely due to the fact that I was up beating my bookport into submission and packing and such.

I did another Juno walk this morning. The Seeing Eye has a fancy new downtown training center. This means that students don't have to sit in vans waiting for lessons to begin. It's pretty sweet. There was a dog handling class this afternoon in which my classmates and I practiced rangling dogs, getting them to settle down andputting them under chairs and such...I have some mad skills in this area I think... There were two labs and one big golden retriever. I did not give a breed preference when I requested my dog; I want the dog that will be best for me, but I'm nervous because I have some golden retriever bias issues, for obvious reasons. I learned today that teams including a second-time dog are statistically most likely to fail. This is often due to the comparisons that go on in the brain of the handler regarding new dog versus previous dog. The awareness is good, but I've never been one for statistics.

Tomorrow is dog day. That's the entry people will actually want to read. My room is already prepared for the dog with a mat and tie-down and such...now I just need my roommate.

Niente Senza gioia!

Current Location: United States, New Jersey, Morristown
Current Mood: content content
Current Music: it's quiet down here and I'm okay with that

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I think these are really great, but what's with KFC in...Utah? Utah fried chicken just sounds strange, but Kentucky is a lie!!!

ALABAMA ... Was the first place to have 9-1-1, started in 1968.

ALASKA ... One out of every 64 people has a pilot's license.

ARIZONA ... Is the only state in the continental U.S. that doesn't follow Daylight Savings Time.

ARKANSAS ... Has the only active diamond mine in the U.S.

CALIFORNIA ... Its economy is so large that if it were a country, it would rank seventh in the entire world.

COLORADO ... In 1976 it became the only state to turn down the Olympics.

CONNECTICUT ... The Frisbee was invented here at Yale University.

DELAWARE ... Has more scientists and engineers than any other state.

FLORIDA ... At 759 square miles, Jacksonville is the U.S.'s largest city.

GEORGIA ... It was here, in 1886, that pharmacist John Pemberton made the first vat of Coca-Cola.

HAWAII ... Hawaiians live, on average, five years longer than residents in any other state.

IDAHO ... TV was invented in Rigby, Idaho, in 1922.

ILLINOIS ... The Chicago River is dyed green every St. Patrick's Day.

INDIANA ... Home to Santa Claus, Indiana, which get a half million letter to Santa every year.

IOWA ... Winnebagos get their name from Winnebago County. Also, it is the only state that begins with two vowels.

KANSAS ... Liberal, Kansas, has an exact replica of the house in The Wizard of Oz.

KENTUCKY ... Has more than $6 billion in gold underneath Fort Knox.

LOUISIANA ... Has parishes instead of counties because they were originally Spanish church units.

MAINE ... It's so big, it covers as many square miles as the other five New England states combined.

MARYLAND ... The Oujia board was created in Baltimore in 1892.

MASSACHUSETTS ... The Fig Newton is named after Newton, Massachusetts.

MICHIGAN ... Fremont, home to Gerber, is the baby food capital of the world.

MINNESOTA ... Bloomington's Mall of America is so big, if you spent 10 minutes in each store, you'd be there nearly four days.

MISSISSIPPI ... President Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear here ... that's how the teddy bear got its name.

MISSOURI ... Is the birthplace of the ice cream cone.

MONTANA .. A sapphire from Montana is the Crown Jewels of England.

NEBRASKA ... More triplets are born here than in any other state.

NEVADA ... Has more hotel rooms than any other place in the world.

NEW HAMPSHIRE ... Birthplace of Tupperware, invented in 1938 by Earl Tupper.

NEW JERSEY ... Has the most shopping malls in one area in the world.

NEW MEXICO ... Smokey the Bear was rescued from a 1950 forest fire here.

NEW YORK ... Is home to the nation's oldest cattle ranch, started in 1747 in Montauk.

NORTH CAROLINA ... Home of the first Krispy Kreme doughnut.

NORTH DAKOTA ... Rugby, North Dakota, is the exact geographic center of North America.

OHIO ... The hot dog was invented here in 1900.

OKLAHOMA ... The grounds of the state capital are covered by operating oil wells.

OREGON ... Has the most ghost towns in the country.

PENNSYLVANIA ... The smiley, :) was first used in 1980 by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.

RHODE ISLAND ... The nation's oldest bar, the White Horse Tavern, opened here in 1673 SOUTH CAROLINA ... Sumter County is home to the world's largest gingko farm.

SOUTH DAKOTA ... Is the only state that's never had an earthquake.

TENNESSEE ... Nashville's Grand Ole Opry is the longest running live radio show in the world.

TEXAS ... Dr. Pepper was invented in Waco back in 1885.

UTAH ... The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant opened here in 1952.

VERMONT ... Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald's.

VIRGINIA ... Home of the world's largest office building ... the Pentagon.

WASHINGTON ... Seattle has twice as many college graduates as any other state.

WASHINGTON D.C. ... Was the first planned capital in the world.

WEST VIRGINIA ... Had the world's first brick paved street, Summers Street, laid in Charleston in 1870.

WISCONSIN ... The ice cream sundae was invented here in 1881 to get around Blue Laws prohibiting ice cream from being sold on Sundays.

WYOMING ... Was the first state to allow women to vote.
[ Author Unknown -- from 'Buffalos Chips' (buffalos-g-jokes.yahoogroups.com) ]

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