Thursday, March 31, 2016

Day 31 of the Daily Slice of Life Story Challenge

Day 31 of the Daily Slice of Life Story Challenge

I cannot believe today is the last day of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. On day one of the challenge I wrote I took on the challenge because I hoped by writing daily I would become a better writing teacher.  As I scroll through my 30 posts, I am amazed at the depth of my growth, a growth that goes beyond teaching me about writing. Through my slice of life story challenge I have:
Daily writing: like a cairn or marker that leads the way to the top
  • Laughed at myself
  • Reflected on life lessons while hiking
  • Counted my blessings
  • Synthesized my learning
  • Discussed inspirations
  • Honored my family
  • Been lifted up with comments
  • Dabbled in poetry
  • Shared my deepest feelings
  • Thought about what it would be like to be a grandma
  • AND Became a grandma!


I have definitely changed because of my commitment to daily writing.  Thank you Two Writing Teachers for giving me this most incredible experience, and thank you to all who read my posts and gave me the courage to continue to take these small steps along the journey up the writing road.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Circle of LIfe

I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge for the entire month of March.  Today is day 30 which means 1 more post and the challenge will be complete, but the writing will go on!  Thank you Two Writing Teachers!

The Circle of Life






Post Script:
My first grandchild, Madeleine, arrived yesterday.  Such a mix of emotions, but I know she will be blessed with an angel to watch over her.  I am extremely hesitant to post this poem, but it captures my feelings so profoundly.  The words were first written about a week ago when I awoke at 2 am and typed away on my phone.  The only words that changed were the gender (it was a surprise) and the lips that told me she was being guarded by her angel.



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Grandma I Want to Be

Today is day 29 of the month long writing challenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers. This is my first year participating in this "Slice of Life Story Challenge" and I am loving it! Only 2 more days!





The Grandma I Want to Be

Yesterday I was driving home from work when I started thinking about my mom and her role as grandmother.  I thought about how she inspired my children and the legacy she left with them.

My mother grew up in the depression era where you lived by the waste not, want not, mantra so she was continually thinking of ways to use this little piece of yarn, or that leftover piece of fabric. She was always making with them, and this was long before the “maker movement.”   When the kids came to visit, Grandma regularly had a project for them to complete, like creating homemade Christmas ornaments together from found objects, (that still grace our tree) bead-work, Popsicle stick frames, and simple sewing projects. She always had the glue, yarn and material ready for their visits and the kids grew to know and love this about her.

She also made for them.  She was a fabulous seamstress and loved making stuffed animals and dolls.  She made a doll for each girl and then stitched a first communion dress for the doll to match the first communion dress she made for them.  She crafted white lunch bags into Easter bunny baskets and then filled the bags with eggs sewed out of scraps of floral and striped material and lace.  A typical lunch time visit to Grandma’s house included chocolate milk and grilled cheese sandwiches cut into cows from the special cookie cutter my mom had just for them!  She made the kids all kinds of candy too, our favorite being the best butterscotch lollipops you ever licked! Oh how she spoiled my kids with sweets!  The love she put into these gifts was very evident.  
I know I will never quite be like my mom, but as my new title of grandmother grows ever closer by the minute, I think more of how I too can be that grandma.  A grandmother that creates with them, explores with them and laughs with them.  I want to be a grandma just like my mom.



Monday, March 28, 2016

Lessons Learned From Hiking in the Alps

Today is day 28 of the month long writing challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.  The month is almost over and yet, this first time slice of life story writer has managed to get a post out each day without too much sweat!  

Lessons Learned While Hiking the Alps:  Always Last

Hiking in the Alps with my family last summer left me with many lessons about life. The views were out of this world awesome, but a view that I came to accept was the view of the backs of my adult children far ahead of me.  You see, their legs are longer and more youthful, and this 56 year old woman, out to prove something (read here), just couldn't keep up. 



My children were very patient with me and even polite when I reached them at a stopping point.  “Mom you are doing great.” They would say, but I was still always last.  It didn't bother me much, except those few times that I finally caught up to them at a designated point and just as I got there they would say, OK , enough resting, let's go.  Even though I had just seemingly arrived!

All these last place finishes made me think about the students in our classrooms who are always lagging behind. Do I leave them with an eternal “view of everyone’s back?”  Do they feel like they are always trying to catch up, or worse giving up because they can never keep up?  How do I change my practice so that everyone finishes joyfully at the same time?  

These are the questions that I have been pondering since my return.  Yes, we need to differentiate but we also need to keep our eyes on how we can give each other the sense that we have all arrived together.  That is the challenge!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Unexpected Happens

I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge everyday for the month of March. Thank you Two Writing Teachers for providing this opportunity. Today is day 27.


The Unexpected Happens

Yesterday all the expected plans for the weekend were thrown in the air and big changes happened. Let me just say that I am not good with change.  I should be better at accepting uncertainty considering my life of the last three years, but that's another story.  
Here are my unexpected happenings…
  • Taking a walk in the woods with my daughter, son, and daughter in law and dog




  • Finding a hidden treasure in a state park
  • Seeing some new and unusual spring blooms

  • Shopping at 1 pm on Easter Sunday for the fixings to make an impromptu Easter dinner


  • Calling our daughter and son in law to find out that they can join us for dinner!
  • Holding hands around the table for grace


How special it was that due to that crazy unexpected change, our family was able to gather for Easter dinner. I feel so blessed and loved.  


When am I going to learn that embracing the unexpected almost always brings about goodness?







Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Day of Waiting

Today is day 26 of the March Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Thank you for this great opportunity.


A Day of Waiting

Waiting
On this
Holy Saturday

Dwelling
On the day between
Sadness and joy

Sitting
Impatiently for
new beginnings

Stopping
To reflect
and ponder

Praying
That I live my life
with a pure heart


Friday, March 25, 2016

Lessons Learned from Hiking in the Alps: Labels

Today is day 25 of the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring this challenge and for helping me to see the importance of daily writing.


Lessons Learned from Hiking in the Alps: Labels

Last summer I went on a four day inn to inn hiking adventure in the Swiss Alps with my children.  My son and daughter in law planned the trip with a help of a company that maps your route, carries your bags, and arranges your stays.  My son and his wife wanted to do this last trip before having children. I wanted to do this because I was now a widow and I wanted to prove to myself that "widow" does not mean old. Of course I did not tell my kids my reason.

The person previously known as widow!
Now - young chicken! Ha!
I don’t like the word widow so I was determined to cast a new light on the word.  I am still young and can still hike in the Alps despite that title.  

Day one was a challenge.  I, of course was always bringing up the rear (that’s another slice of life story!) but after 7 hours of intense walking I strolled into the inn with my kids!  I made it. 

I reflected on the word widow.  What does that word mean anyway.  According to Dictionary.com widow is: a woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not remarried.  Yes, by definition I am a widow.  But what I am not is old and unable to move or see the world.  That definition was based on a preconceived notion I had for that word. It was a label. At the end of the day, my tired and achy body realized that the label widow was what I made it to be, and at that point I realized that widow was a label - just a label.  It didn't need to define me.  

What other labels have I used and then place preconceived notions attached to that word? What labels are used for the children in our schools?  Did I use labels that defined a student and stuck with him/her over the years? Did that label damage a child’s self esteem or worse, stopped that student from succeeding?
 
Labels can be damaging, but as I learned in the Alps, labels can be overcome and redefined!


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Starting a New Tradition a la Lucy

Today is day 24 in the month long Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. What am I going to do when this is over?
Starting a New Tradition a la Lucy

Lucy Calkin’s closing speech at the 90th Teachers College Saturday Reunion gave me enough food for thought to fill a month’s worth of posts.   
Her big message was centered around the word tradition.  This being the 90th reunion Lucy commented that these Saturday reunions are now a tradition for the staff as well as for many of those in the audience. Lucy continued to say that traditions tie us together and make us feel like we belong, even when that belonging can make us “feel less weird.”  

One of the best traditions for teachers to engage in according to Lucy was to be a writer. What?  Did she just say that?  Was she talking to me the new participant in the slice of life story challenge?  She went on to state that writing helps us to do more wide awake living. Huh… isn't that what I've been experiencing this month, live awake living.  

My slice of life writing had me looking closely at sunrises and sunsets, birds, and trees.  My writing has had me thinking about my soon to be grandchildren, my family and little bits of rainbows.  I’ve traveled back to Switzerland with my family, became vulnerable, and I discovered so many new ways to think about my student writers (here and here).  Yes Lucy, writing has had me living more wide awake.  

Lucy stated that is once you do something five times and then write about it, then it becomes a habit, a tradition. And all one has to do to make a tradition is to just start, to take one little step towards that new tradition, to begin something new. 

Being that it is day 24 of the slice of life story challenge, it looks as if I have a new tradition.  
So today, thanks to this slice of life story challenge and Lucy’s words, I am officially starting - just starting (as Lucy stated) .. to be a daily writer!

Are you ready to start with me?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It's All About the Talk

Today is day 23 of the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Head over to Two Writing Teachers to learn more about this great writing experience.

It's All About the Talk
The last two days of the Slice of Life Story Challenge had me writing about the sessions from the Teachers College Saturday Reunion.  Writing about each session has been beneficial in remembering much more of each presentation, allowing the important parts to really stick.  I am vowing to synthesize more of my notes after every PD session!


Another session I attended was given by Kathy Collins: “Supporting Partners to have Big Ideas and Grand Conversations About the Littlest of Books.” Today I thought I would synthesize my notes and create a list of my top 10 takeaways from the Kathy Collins presentation.

  1. We need to give our students time to talk across ALL aspects of the day
  2. Children need explicit instruction in how to carry a conversation
  3. Students need to see mentors and models showing how to talk. Use videos made by you or found online
  4. Teachers should help students reflect on their talk, and then engage in discussions on how they can improve
  5. Conversation starts as a whole class and gradually releases to the teacher being a participant
  6. When we engage in talk about a text, we are gaining a deeper understanding of that text
  7. In order for our reading - writing partnerships to grow, we need to build a community across the day, not just in workshop
  8. Think time is often required before for talk time
  9. If we expect students to talk about big ideas in little books, then we should be showing our students our big ideas through modeling first
  10. Explain the reason WHY you chose to read a book.  This will help plant the seeds of great reading habits


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Countdown of the Five Tools for Using the New Units of Study for Reading

Today is Day 22 of the Daily Slice of Life Story Challenge being held for the month of March. This challenge is being hosted by Two Writing Teachers.


Five Tools for Using the New Units of Study for Reading

Saturday's Teacher College Reunion was filled with so many great choices of PD that it is often hard to choose just four from the many offerings.  Natalie Louis was my choice for the first session of the day, presenting “Using the Units of Study Books to Build a Reading Toolkit: Be Prepared to Work with any Reader, Anytime.” To be honest I chose this session because I love how Natalie can get her message across all the while laughing and joking.  In this session, Natalie shared five tools for using the new Teachers College Units of Study for Reading. My head is full thinking about all Natalie shared, so writing this blog is my way of synthesizing the information.


Tool number five is a blank piece of paper. The best tools are those that come from your own needs. Natalie suggested that if we are looking for a recording form of one kind or another, we should simply create one.  The tool you create will be the one most used because it originated from a need you saw. The new units of study come with many great resources, but there is no way the developers could foresee your specific needs.


Fourth on the list was to find and use one book you know well.  The book needs to be one you like that you keep coming back to. A book that says "reading matters" and a book that gets in your bones.


Number three was to make sure your teaching has your fingerprint on it.  Natalie was very passionate about this piece and commented that we need to beware of trying to take the you from your teaching. Natalie stressed that we need to cultivate our voice in these lesson ideas.


Second on the toolkit list was to find an opener for your kit and dive in.  How many times have we received a new resource and not a take the time to look at all the pieces?  Natalie reminded us to check each piece carefully - and with a group of friends. There is much in the box, so take a look but know that it is the hope that soon you will outgrow the lessons in the books.


And the number one tool is a deep knowledge of what reading is.  How can you teach reading if you don't have this knowledge?  Natalie noted that Teachers College is constantly outgrowing itself in their knowledge of reading as they work with schools across the country. The work of reading development is ever evolving. She then challenged us to continue to learn and grow in our understanding of the reading process, so that we have an “ever deepening” knowledge of what reading is.  Natalie also charged us with thinking about using various means to reach the reader.  If you are dissatisfied with the product, change the process.  We need to use any and all components such as shared reading, read aloud, and independent reading to reach and teach our reader.

Natalie certainly gave me plenty of food for thought with these five tools.  I know I will be referring back to this list as I grow in my ever deepening knowledge of reading and teaching.


Monday, March 21, 2016

TCRWP Keynote Andrew Solomon

Today is Day 21 of the daily Slice of Life Story Challenge being held during the month of March. I am a first time participant enjoying all there is to learn about writing. Thank you Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring this event.


Andrew Solomon - Keynote
The 90th Teachers College Reunion began with an incredible keynote from  Andrew Solomon.  Lucy Calkins introduced him as one of the most inspirational speakers she had ever heard. And before Andrew even came on stage we were already moved to tears watching the trailer from his book:  Far From the Tree. See for yourself here.

Andrew's message was deep and personal.  He opened my eyes to thinking about the differences and similarities of illness and identity.  He defined the difference between love, which most child receive the minute they are born, and acceptance, which is more of a process and can often take time.  He challenged me to new thinking when he said: “lack of acceptance does not mean no love.”  

But it was his mother’s words that hit me the hardest: “The love for your children is unlike any other and until you have children you don't know what it feels like.”  As a parent to three wonderful children I know and live these words.  But Andrew challenged me to go beyond my children and to think about all parents, especially those who have “extraordinary children,”  for they too love their children. He asked us to be unafraid of the diversity and challenges of our students because as educators we are called to love them all like they are our own children.  We need to see that same light each parent sees in their child, for that light can be found in each and every person.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Taking A Break

Two Writing Teachers are sponsoring a month long writing challenge and I am taking part for the first time!  Today is Day 20 of my daily writing of Slice of Life Stories.


Taking a Break

I know I have many slices waiting inside this brain after attending yesterday’s Teachers College 90th reunion, but I needed a break!  So today I decided to get out my sewing machine to stitch a little curtain for a cupboard in my craft / exercise / lake front room.  
I sat in my pjs in front of the window overlooking the sunshine on the lake and sewed away.  I must point out that I haven't sewed in years, but since learning I would soon become a grandma, I decided I needed to start sewing again.  And I have enjoyed it! Stitching various little baby projects in anticipation of the arrival of two grandchildren (first one due any day now!) has been fun.

As I was sewing, I realized how much I enjoyed the break.  Quick projects such as these that make my new home look nice, has been so rewarding. For a few hours, my mind wasn't focused on the school to do list, but rather on my project, the sunshine, and my craftiness!
Yes, I have a load of school work awaiting me: a lab site model lesson to prepare, a strategy group idea that needs to be fleshed out, and preparations for a family math night... I could go on and on, but I needed an escape from school for a while. And my little craft project was just the thing I needed.  

A career in education is extremely draining and demanding with burn out an easy reality.  I know I can get trapped into the cycle of all work.  So for me, taking these little time outs to be or to do is necessary. They recharge my batteries and remind me that I do have a life other than work!


What do you do to take a break from your to do list and the demands of your teaching career?



Saturday, March 19, 2016

Saturday PD

Today is day 19 of the month long Slice of Life Story Challenge 2016 sponsored by Two Writing Teachers

Saturday PD


I love to learn.
why else would I
get up at 3:45 am
board a bus
ride for four hours
with other sleepy co-workers
to arrive
in New York City
on a Saturday?


It's the Teachers College
Saturday Reunion
A day of high quality
learning
with nothing but
the best educators
Lucy, Amanda
to name just a few.


I know I will be filled with
ideas galore
after this day
of learning
with my co-workers
in New York City
on a Saturday
all because
I love to learn.