Composite Countertops

As a green consumer looking for countertops for your kitchen, bathroom, or even tables, there are many composite countertop options available. You can find composite countertops that are made out of a great variety of raw materials, including recycled glass, paper, and concrete. The composites are held together with products such as natural water-based resins and concrete. These products are not only great alternatives because they help to provide a healthy home environment through the use of non-toxic materials, but they also use materials that are recycled, waste products, and/or bi-products. Ensure that if you are purchasing a glass composite countertop and want an earth-friendly option, ensure that it is not fused, as these are not recycled. Keep in mind that paper composites usually contain a very small amount of formaldehyde as a binder, but when finished, it is undetectable. Also note that while concrete is considered to be very non-environmentally friendly in terms of manufacturing processes, it does not have any toxic qualities as an end product.

Composite countertops vary widely in price. In general they fall into these categories: glass composites range from $95.00-$100/sq foot depending on sheet size, and paper composites range from $42.00/sq foot-$60.00/sq. foot depending on thickness and sheet size.


There are quite a few blog posts here about building, but less on interior furnishings etc. Appliances are definiately something worth talking about. I am sure most people have heard about the energy star ratings on appliances. They are very helpful in determining the most efficient products out there. However, what about the appliances that are sitting at home? Is there anything wrong with using them until they literally break? Yes and no. Appliances that are 15-20 years old should most likely be recycled. If they are resold, that will just mean it is going to continue to suck energy at a higher rate in a different location. The older machines do just that, they use more energy to do the same job. When you are purchasing a new appliance, the establishment that you are getting it from should take the old one away to be properly recycled. Yes, it will mean that it will be going to a landfill, but they can do the best job of making sure it has the least amount of negative impact on the earth. If you are purchasing a used but not old appliance, there are local governmental recycling programs you can check out. If you do decide to upgrade your appliance, you will generally save between 10-50% on the energy costs of the new versus old appliance.

Building Structures to Lastl

When a structure is built, specifically the large commercial buildings, part of the cost is the cost of tearing down the structure. This to me is so crazy! And what made me want to write a post about it is something that happened right here in the town I am in. There is a regional chain that is basically like a Home Depot, except, like I said, regional. Within the past month, the old store has closed down, been torn down, and the new one already has a very large section of the cement shell built. They are building a much bigger store, so I do not understand why they just did not build an addition. Environmentally, an addition makes a lot more sense. Plus the old building, which was still in great shape and function, was completely thrown away. I personally think there is something seriously wrong with this thinking that we can just continue to do this.

Green Architecture and Sustainability

Green architecture and sustainability sort of go hand-in-hand. When working towards making a structure environmentally friendly, if you are also keeping in mind and working towards making it sustainable, you will be on the right track and working from two directions to achieve almost identical goals. You basically cannot get one without automatically getting the other, which is a good thing. There are sort of two levels of sustainability as it relates to building. There is the materials and practices sustainability, which includes the manufacturing, transportation, and installation of the raw materials and the building as a whole. There is also the level of sustainability of the the structure as an end product, meaning how sustainable the structure is on it's own.

Comprehension in the Content Areas

I recently ordered Cris Tovani's latest book, Do I Really Have to Teach Reading? after browsing through it at a bookstore. There is a very good chance that I will be teaching Ramp-Up again next school year, after a one year hiatus. For me, the course is RUAL in name only... I don't plan to follow the RUAL curriculum closely. Instead, I prefer to go to the source. RUAL is based on research and case studies done by Cris Tovani, Kylene Beers and Ellin Oliver Keene, to name a few popular teacher-researchers. I use their ideas in ALL my classes, not just the ones that are considered to be low-level, or in the 9th grade classes.

What I especially love about Tovani's books in general is the classroom play-by-play that shows exactly how the strategy might be taught and when. I really like to have that visual...when I read about new strategies, I'm less likely to try it out in my classroom if I can't visualize how it might play out with my own kids. I'm a few chapters in the book now, but I have some things to say about chapter one.

First, in this chapter, she reviews what is known in RUAL as the 7 Habits of Proficient Readers, or strategies. I'm glad she brought that up again, right in the beginning because I definitely need a refresher. To be sure, I always have these things in the back of my mind as I teach, and as I compose lessons or units but it's never an explicit thought, which means that when I write those lesson plans, I'm not specifically thinking about how I teach or review that strategy.

Second, I have two bones to pick. Look at this quote from the chapter:

"Teaching a few strategies well is a key aspect of my work. Rather than a large grab bag of gimmicks and techniques, I find myself returning to these core skills with students and teachers. I would rather my students master a few core skills than be exposed to so many strategies in a short period of time that they don't master any of them."

My first issue is this: Tovani seems to be using "skills" and "strategies" interchangeably. I disagree with this. Skills and strategies are two completely different things. Skills are things that our students can DO, while strategies are ways of achieving that skill, or the HOW of performing the skill. For example, I often work with my 9th graders on determining important information. This is a skill. The strategy I teach them for practicing this skill is to look for repetition and to identify experts in an non-fiction article (like those found on the NYS Regents exam), among other things.

It's a clear distinction, right?

Now for my second issue with this paragraph: I would argue that it is useful to teach all the strategies then allow students to become good at those strategies that work best for them. The chief complaint here is that there isn't enough time. But consider this: What if you began teaching strategies from Day 1, in a series of mini-lessons, giving students an arsenal of sorts from which they could choose the strategy they like best. Then, challenge your students to practice those few strategies over and over again. I read an article recently that said that strategies don't work when the kids don't remember to use them. This is where it makes sense to ask kids to master a few strategies well, so the strategies become internalized. But not all strategies work best for all kids, and how do you choose which are the best ones to focus on? You can't, so teach all of them, then allow your students to choose their favorites.

If you remember, I recently attended a workshop on Co-Teaching, led by Dr. Marilyn Friend. In that workshop, she said that it was really important to balance process with content. Tovani leans the same way, hence the subtitle of this book. Even though I only teach one content area, I do find it appropriate for me to work with my 9th graders on reading strategies for other content areas.

Long Time Coming

The mornings are starting to feel like Fall, up in my neck of the woods. My neighborhood, being in the North Bronx and close to the Hudson, is usually cooler than Manhattan. I wore my fleece for the first time in a long time, which is always a good feeling. I like cool, crisp weather. It makes waking up a lot easier, the prospect of leaving the house more palatable, more bearable

So, we've had two half-weeks of school and we're going into our first full week of the year. Last week, before our four-day weekend, I left off with The Black Cat, talking about reports of information and discussion SOAPs with my AP class. I returned today and put last week's work on hold to devote two class periods, over two days, in each class to discussing the discipline code. The powers that be thoughtfully gave us lesson plans for introducing and explaining the discipline code to the kids. I agree that the kids should know what's in the discipline code and what their rights are, as students but to devote two class periods? I don't know about that. One student even asked, "Why didn't we do this the first day of school?" Good question! In any case, we had some interesting discussions today about what is and what isn't allowed, and some of the consequences.

My 5th period had a brief reprieve from the lessons in the form of a visit from the Opening Act teaching artists. They are back for another year, and made the rounds today to various English classes to drum up interest for our first session, on Wednesday. I am excited about having them back, and especially excited about their Silent Auction and Benefit Reading on Monday, September 24th. The female role in the reading of Love Letters will be read by Bernadette Peters. There are still tickets available, if you're so inclined, including a limited number of $40 seats.

Things are down to the wire around here. The auction is next week, so I have auction items in various places in my apartment. My wedding is in less than a month, and while I'm not overtly stressing, I'm definitely feeling some anxiety. I have a few things to do before the big day, like finishing my wedding favors and making my centerpieces. I'm waiting for all this...busy-ness to pass and eager to get back into my regular routine, when we return from the honeymoon.

The First Day of School

Well, first of all, I could not sleep on Monday night. I still get excited about the first day of school, about what I'm going to wear and this year, I was excited about having such a cool, new work bag plus my new Simpsons travel mug. (Dork Alert but whatever gets me through the day, you know?)

Yesterday was suprisingly smooth. I don't start teaching until third period, and by then, all the kids had gotten their programs. We had a full day yesterday, from top to bottom. I have a few kids in my AP class who don't belong there, and the class is missing a few kids. (By belonging, I mean that while they may be very smart kids, they're not motivated enough to stick it out, plus there are some kids who can barely speak English.)

I've learned to accept that I'm not going to have even a whole semester planned out by the first day of school, since we don't receive our final chaturbat programs until we go back for in-service but like Julie, I have lots of stuff floating around in my head. Juniors will be studying American Literature. I was going to start with Manchild in the Promised Land but then I decided I wanted to do more classic American Literature like Twain and Faulkner, for my benefit as much as theirs. My American Lit knowledge is sorely lacking and it's a shame.

Sophomores... haven't quite figured that out yet. I'm focusing on the NYC ELA Standards because it gives me a bit of structure, and they are supposed to meet those standards by the end of tenth grade anyway.

All in all, things are looking good. I have a bunch of obnoxious kids but they all know me, for the most part so it's not as hard as having freshmen. Speaking of, how good did I feel when my freshmen from last year greeted me in the halls with squeals of delight and bear hugs? Yeah!


So, I haven't said too much about the end of the school year. I was just incredibly relieved to have the school year be over, finally. I had one horrible class this year with lousy chemistry and it was a huge struggle to not have this class completely ruin the rest of my day (this class was first thing in the morning). I learned a lot, hopefully, from this horrible class and I can start to think about what I'll do differently next year. In the meantime, other things have been happening.

Yesterday morning, the day after the last day of school, I closed on my new apartment. The closing was incredibly wierd and surreal and boring and exciting, all at the same time. I moved the same day I closed, so there was a short flurry of last minute packing and agonizing over the late movers (though they did do a great job and were very cheap, so if you need cheap movers, check out The Good Move.) I still don't feel like a homeowner but that'll all change when I start my renovation projects (stay tuned for the First on the list is getting some co-op has the typical 80% rule (80% of the floors must be covered) and getting homeowner's insurance. After the move, I took my sister out to dinner at The Riverdale Garden, partly to thank her for helping move (we put all my non-truck stuff into her car, and she broke a nail helping me take my bed apart!) and partly to celebrate...we had a glass of champagne with dinner!

Today, I'm in Cape Cod for the holiday weekend. I had to curb my compulsive tendencies and leave all the boxes scattered and unpacked for now, so I could catch a little R'n'R this weekend, though I already did put my bed together (first thing!), moved the kitchen boxes into the kitchen, and hung up some of my sex chat posters and prints.

When I get back to NYC, I'll be helping out at the New York City Writing Project Blogging Invitational. I'm looking forward to it but at the same time, I'd rather be at my new place getting it in order before I leave for Seattle on the 22nd.

Winding Down

Classes ended last Wednesday for high school students, here in the city. Regents exams began that afternoon. Since then, the English department has read and graded more than 1,300 ELA Regents essays. (The funniest moment yet was a student who accidently wrote "Fuckleberry Hinn", instead of "Huckleberry Finn.") We input the scores into the system today. All that is left to do is hang around the building, clean out our classrooms and shoot the breeze. We have graduation ceremonies next week and the last day for teachers is the 28th.

I already started doing some planning for next year but experience has taught me that it's not a good idea to plan too much since program changes are inevitable between now and September. I'm slated to teach tenth grade (including one honors class) and 11th grade. I'm looking forward to having the chance for a change of pace, and being able to teach a more rigorous class but I won't get my hopes up too much!

Ready, Get Set, Go!

As soon as I get out of work tomorrow (early, no less), it's go time

First, I have to hustle from the South Bronx to Downtown Brooklyn for my first meeting of the NYCWP Satellite Invitational, from 4-8. Then, it's time to hop a bus and scoot over to the teacher-blogger happy hour organized by Frizz in Fort Greene (I timed it on's 15 minutes by bus, ideally). Here's hoping I can actually get to the bar before everyone leaves. Then, it's over to The Knitting Factory to hear New Radiant Storm King, whose band members the boy has been friends with since back in the day. Then, it's home to bed, since I have to be up early for the second day of the Satellite retreat, starting at 9 and ending at 4. Sunday brings a birthday lunch at Serendipity. In between all this, there are lesson plans to write and papers to grade. I'll also be out part of the day, two days in a row next week, so that means absentee lesson plans have to be written, as well.