Monday, April 10, 2017

Give Them a Pencil


Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this space for me to share my corner of the world.

Saturday morning I had the privilege of listening to Ruth Ayres present at the EdCollabGathering, a series of online PD sessions.  She talked about students who come from trauma, the significance of giving a student a pencil and the filling of a student's need.  I have heard parts of this presentation before, but hearing it again Saturday tore at my heart.

I have had students whose home lives I knew were not good.  They didn't sit down to family dinners.  They didn't have parents who tucked them in at night or saw to it that they ate a good breakfast before sending them off to school.  Sometimes, they didn't even see their parents in the morning.  They didn't understand the definition of a family or a loving relationship.

I have had students who didn't want to go home after school, dreaded the weekends, and hated Christmas break.  Some have come from abuse of all kinds.  At times I have avoided sending home behavior notices or making phone calls to parents for fear of what would happen when they arrived at home.

I knew the last thing they thought about was having a pencil.

Each day my students arrive at my door, and I am given a gift.  The gift to inspire minds, to challenge thinkers, to motivate unbelievers.

But with this gift also comes a huge responsibility.  Our students come to us and expect to learn, to be respected, and to feel safe.

And many times they need a pencil.

At the end of each day, we tell them "Goodbye! See you tomorrow!"  And we assume that we will.

Last week in our community, a five year old little boy said goodbye to his teacher when school was out.  He didn't see her the next day because he never returned.

I know evil exists in this world.  I read about it in the newspaper, and I watch it unfold on television every day.  This week evil found its way into my hometown and took the life of this little boy.

This evil was his father.

This evil one tried to smother him with a pillow, wrapped a cord around his neck, and when that didn't work, he placed his 300 pound body on top of him until he stopped breathing.  According to the newspaper, he had planned it all.

Teachers, school officials, and neighbors report abuse, but sometimes reporting seems to not be enough. When tragedy like this happens, many questions surface, and teachers go through so many "what ifs."  Guilt consumes, and blame is thrown about like candy in a parade.  But in this case, no one is to blame but the evil one.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness and preventing child abuse.  It is a time to take a step back and not only identify those needs, but to try and fill them as well.

And maybe it is time we give them a pencil.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Digital Poetry ~ #DigiLitSunday


Today I am participating in Digital Literacy Sunday with Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Techewhere we are talking about digital poetry.

Summer is almost upon us.  Time for summer activities.  Time for summer camps, with many of those being sports camps.  We have camps for football, basketball, soccer, tennis, baseball, and golf.  If a child plays a sport, then we can connect him or her with a sports camp.

For the past several years, my school district has thought outside the box and has offered an academic camp, SPARK (Super Powered Activities to Recharge Kids) for our high ability students.  Students have the opportunity to feed their curiosity, their creativity, and their innovativeness with the use of technology.  

I always teach sessions on writing poetry, and yes, sometimes it is hard to compete with drones, spheros, ollies, 3D printers, and 3Doodlers.  But I need to provide an outlet for creative writing because we live in a world of writing-for-the-test.  

I have used Google slides in the past to incorporate technology into my sessions.  Students write their poems and collaborate on Google slides, but I am looking for new ideas.  

I work with 2nd and 3rd graders in one session, and 4th and 5th graders in the other.  Do you have any apps or ideas on digital poetry to share that I could try this summer?  I have many students who come every year and we need something new.  I welcome your suggestions. 

Also, if any of you are still in school the week after Memorial Day and would like to collaborate, Skype, and share poetry across the miles, please leave a note in the comments.  

In the meantime, please enjoy our work from summer's collections.  




Saturday, April 8, 2017

What do you mean, they hate to read?

One morning this week as I was walking down the hall to my classroom, two teachers stopped to tease me about a comment I made at our faculty meeting the day before.  I had asked our principal if students could just stay on the computers after our practice test session instead of reading.  They all know my passion for reading, and thought this was quite the oxymoron.

In our conversation, one teacher mentioned how much her students hated to read. She looked at me and said, "Well, you had them last year, so you know what I mean."

The conversation ended, and I continued down to my room.

Then I stopped.

And I thought to myself, "What do you mean these students hate to read?"  These same students I had last year who read over 2,400 books?  My one half of an entire grade level who read more books than each of the total 7th and 8th grades?

This is a problem.

What happens after students leave my classroom?  Why do kids read in 6th grade, but drop off in 7th and 8th grade?

Maybe a better question is, What do I do in my classroom that motivates kids to read?  What do I do that is different from what they do?  I am not in their classroom, and I don't know how they motivate kids to read.  But I do know how I have been successful.

I talk about books.  I have conversations about books with my current students, as well as my former students, every day.  I have a segment on our morning show where I feature books to our entire school.  I celebrate other students' reading lives by having them on as guests.  Reading must be part of our conversations and our relationships with students if we want them to read.

Students have easy access to books in my classroom library.  Spending my own money on books is not something I want to do, but it is something I need to do.  Before our spring break, the librarian sent out an overdue book lists.  Out of the 132 overdue books, I had three.  Most of my students find books in our own library.  When a student needs a book, it is much easier for them to find one in our classroom.  Plus, it is easier for me to match kids with books when they are easily available.

I make time to read.  I try to start my class every day with 10 minutes of independent reading time.  When a person values something, they make time for it.

I expect students to read.  My students know I expect them to read two hours a week.  I let them manage their time by not requiring daily reading, but weekly reading instead.  Middle school students' schedules are busy, and I understand that being flexible is key to motivation.  But that is the expectation, and students will rise to the expectation which is set.

I share my literacy life.  Students need to have literacy role models in their lives.  Having a teacher who reads should not be left to chance.  All students deserve teachers who read.  When I read, I can't wait to share my thoughts about books with them.  I usually have several students in my mind who just might like that book.

This is how we build those reading relationships.

This is why my students read.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

#BestSchoolDay ~ Celebrate 2017 (twelve)



Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share the celebrations from our week.  

Best School Day - how many times have you said this?  Officially, I can say it was this week. On Wednesday, the Donor's Choose organization, along with 20,000 generous donors, supported 11,459 public school classrooms.  Through their #BestSchoolDay campaign, these donors gave over $2 million to projects created by teachers.  

Thanks to Donor's Choose, Aspect Ventures who matched donations, and a very special author, my classroom was one of them.

When I moved to middle school from 4th grade, I took many of my books with me. However, many of these books are geared toward middle grade students, not middle school, especially my nonfiction and poetry books.  

Earlier this year I created a nonfiction project, and it was funded by our local electric company.  Just a month ago, I created a poetry project.  

Middle school can be a tough transition into the teenage years. My 6th grade students try to balance school, home, friendships, parents, relationships, and extra-curricular activities, while keeping their emotions in check. 
One day my students are trying to outrun their childhood, and the next day they are thankful being a teenager is not within their grasp.
For my students, no day is typical, and each day is different. But literacy is the one thing that can help hold it all together.  My hope is that poetry will build empathy, allow for personal expression, and open their minds to different perspectives.
Today, I celebrate those who donors who are giving my students this chance.  

I celebrate those businesses who support literacy and freely give monetary resources to help teachers. I celebrate my author friend and other authors who support the hard work that teachers do each and every day. 

And as National Poetry Month begins, I celebrate poetry. 





These are just a few of the books which will be arriving in my classroom this month.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Ode to Dandelion #sol17


I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. ~ Stacey Shubitz


This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.

Today is also Poetry Friday and Amy at The Poem Farm is hosting today.  Stop by and indulge yourself in a little poetry.



Today I am participating in Michelle Barnes' monthly challenge at Today's Little Ditty. This month Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem, following these instructions:   
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
I found out Thursday that Crayola was retiring the color Dandelion. This announcement made me think about all the suns that will no longer be drawn in the corners of children's artwork, and I questioned, "Why this one?"  This question was perfect for my Ode to Dandelion.


Ode to Dandelion

Oh, Dandelion I see you standing proud in your box of 24.
Your back-to-school scent lingers in my backpack. 
My heart races and
a gasp escapes as I carefully pull you out.
The tip of my tongue licks my lips as I create my masterpiece of a corner sun.
Why, Crayola did you have to take away Dandelion?
Just to make room for a new one.

© 2017 Leigh Anne Eck


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Favorites Party Round-up #sol17


I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. ~ Stacey Shubitz


This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.




My first slice for this monthly challenge was an invitation to a favorites party.  I have to say that this slice is my all-time favorite because it was interactive and was a great way to introduce ourselves to each other.  

Twenty-five slicers attended the party and each brought their own special items. However, some items appeared over and over again and become the top favorites. So here is the Favorites Party Round-up from #sol17.

6.  Food and drink.  There were so many food and drinks that I had to throw all of them together.  There were all kinds of yummy snacks and both hot and cold beverages served in special containers.

5.  Captured moments.  I was touched by the slicers who wanted to capture our time together, whether that was through a phone, an iPad, or a camera.  (I voted Terje the official photographer.)

4.  Comfort.  It became obvious that this party was a place to wind down and enjoy the moments with each other.  Everything from comfy clothes to comfy shoes and blankets to pillows was included.  (We even moved the party from my front porch to Deb's lake!)

3.  Books.  Slicers wanted to share books from their favorite authors to their favorite poems.  This goes to show that writers are also readers.

2.  Pens.  You can tell we are writers because pens, especially Ink Joy pens were popular.  This party forced me to try Ink Joy for the first time and oh my...they are wonderful!

And the top favorite item was CHOCOLATE!  Chocolate came in candy, cookies, brownies and everything in between.  We obviously know what feeds the souls of writers.

Lisa gets the kindness award for bringing the hostess a gift!  Thank you Lisa.

I hope all of you enjoyed the party as much as I did and will stop by again on Tuesdays.


Here's to a great month of slicing!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Good Old Days #sol17


I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. ~ Stacey Shubitz


This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.

You realize how dependent you become on something when you no longer have it.  We become spoiled.  We expect it to just "be there."

These words are so true and are words that I lived out the first two days of this week.  Part of our computer management system was down the first two days back from spring break.  What a difference it made in the way we "did school" this week.

The office staff was not able to look up on the computer where students were.  They would have to either email or walk down to the wings to look for students.  

This chaos sure made us appreciate the old days when students had their schedules written down on cards, and the cards were filed by grade level in aphpahbetical order in a file box.  

Oh what we would have done to have that system in place this week.

We would have appreciated the good old days.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Professional Development Books ~ #sol17


I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. ~ Stacey Shubitz


This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.

Friday I wrote about a new addiction, Ink Joy gel pens, and it seems that I have lots of company with that addiction.

Today's post is about another obsession - buying professional books.  Yes, I have many more than I need, and yes, I have some that I have not even read.  "But I might learn something new" is my mantra and my justification when it comes to purchasing professional books.

Reading professional books is cheap PD.  Many school districts are decreasing professional development opportunities for teachers due to budget cuts, and what I learn from reading these books and apply in my classroom, is well worth the money.

It is our responsibility as professionals to stay current in best teaching practices and to learn new ideas of what works in classrooms.  Why would we not want to improve our teaching?  Why would not want to personalize our PD to fit our individual needs and our passions? Why would we not want to read information on which to base our instructional decisions?

David Guerin wrote a great post "So You're an Educator and You're Not Reading" about taking ownership for our professional growth through reading professional books.  It's a great read and further justification for my (and maybe your) addiction.

So what new books did I just order that will be pushing my thinking soon?  Here's my list that should be arriving this week:




What professional books have you read or purchased lately?

Monday, March 27, 2017

PD Book Spine Poetry #sol17


I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. ~ Stacey Shubitz


This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.

I love creating book spine poetry, looking through my shelves, arranging and rearranging titles.  One year I wrote book spine haiku for an even greater challenge.  

This month, Diane at Newtreemom created a book spine poem using professional books.  I have been on spring break this week, so my poem had to wait until I was ready to could get back to my classroom to see what titles I could add to my book stash at home.  

Here are my creations using professional books - one for writing and one for reading.



Write beside them
day by day
bringing life to words
after the end
the journey is everything


Book love
igniting a passion for reading
kids deserve it

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Is It Enough? #sol17 #digilitSunday


I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. ~ Stacey Shubitz


This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.

Today I am participating in Digital Literacy Sunday with Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche.  





I sit here today thinking about final plans for this week.  We have three more weeks before our second round of testing which lasts two weeks, and then we have our last three weeks of school.  For me, this school year is almost over.  It becomes a time of reflecting, questioning, and doubting.


This is my tenth year of teaching.  I have taught grades 4-6, and I have taught language arts and math.  Teaching sure has changed dramatically in these short ten years.
My first year we used a basal reader and all of the accompanying worksheets.  I hated it, and the kids hated it.  (That was the one and only year I did that!)  
We went to a computer lab once a week where we typically worked on keyboarding skills or a math facts program and occasionally completed research and created a Powerpoint presentation.  Presentation options were limited.
I taught with transparencies on an overhead projector which sat in the middle of the room and projected on a pull-down screen.
Learning was contained within the four walls of our classroom and was mostly teacher-driven and teacher-led.
Reflecting on that first year, my teaching seems archaic.  It is hard to believe it was just ten years ago.  
Technology has allowed learning to become personalized, global, and more engaging. Learning is student-led and student-driven.  Our world has become larger because of connections, and learning no longer has walls.
For me, teaching has become more rewarding, yet more challenging.  It was much easier to open the teachers manual and read from a script and say that we were "teaching."  
Now, I spend hours, days, and summers learning new ways to improve my teaching through the use of technology and to make learning more engaging.  I read books and blog posts, go to conferences, and collaborate with teachers from far away places.  I build that passion that crafts my teaching.  But after spending this time becoming a better teacher, a burning question raises its ugly head.
Is it enough?
We, as teachers, are our biggest critic.  We are first in line to question, Have I done enough?  Is this engaging?  How can I make this better?
I need this burning question to drive my passion and my desire to improve, but without beating myself up.  Without the question, Is it enoughwould I still be teaching like I did ten years ago?  I owe this burning question to my profession, to myself, and to my students.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Passionate Teachers ~ Celebrate 2017 (ten) #sol17


I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. ~ Stacey Shubitz


This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.



Today I am also combining my two worlds of writing by celebrating my week with Ruth Ayres

Remember what it was like when you were a child on Christmas Eve, so excited and couldn't sleep?  Or maybe it was the night before the first day of school and you are filled with anticipation of a new class of students and new ideas to implement?

That was me last night.  I came across a recorded 2016 webinar with Penny Kittle, who just happens to be one of my teacher idols.  It was one hour and 35 minutes long, but with all of the stops to write notes and "back 'em ups" to catch something brilliant she said that I missed the first time, it took me over two and a half hours to watch!  Finally at midnight (just after the Two Writing Teachers email came through) I decided I needed to go to bed.

But I couldn't sleep.  I could not turn my brain off because all these ideas and thoughts were swimming.  There is so much brilliance to share, but today I celebrate passionate teachers.

In the beginning of the webinar, she talks about passion, and this quote was one of her slides.



She explains how her passion, everything she has wanted to do, has come because somebody showed her their passion.  She affectionately tells about how her father instilled her passion of fishing though his own passion.

Of course, she then moves to her passion about reading and writing and this had me thinking.

Do I show my passion each and every day?  Do I share my passion to each and every student?  How can I do a better job of sharing my passion with my colleagues?

Who shares their passion with me?  

When I think about how my teaching has changed because of what other teachers have shared with me, I am overwhelmed and so, so grateful.  I am not talking about the teacher down the hall who shares a resource or an idea.  Although I am thankful for them, I celebrate teachers like Penny -- and so many others -- who share their passion with us through webinars, online courses, tweets, blog posts, books, and conferences so that we may become better teachers.  

To paraphrase Penny, everything I have wanted to do in my classroom and my career, is because somebody showed me and shared with me their passion.

This is the true celebration. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

My Soon-to-Be Addiction ~ #sol17


I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. ~ Stacey Shubitz


This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.

I have a new addiction.  Not that I need or want one.  

I had heard about this soon-to-be addiction from some of my friends - Michelle Haseltine and Jennifer Laffin.  (I blame it on them!)

Walking down the aisle at Walmart, I would look at this soon-to-be addiction and convince myself I didn't need them.  The next shopping trip (and the next), I did the same thing.  I tried to ignore it, but one day I had a meltdown. 

I stopped in the aisle and said, "I can't take it any more!"

I bought some.  It was a small package of this soon-to-be addiction because I was just going to "try" them.  But I fell in love. 

Then, as I was walking down the aisle of Walmart again, I heard a bigger package of this soon-to-be addiction calling my name.  It's like they were taunting me.  I kept telling them that I didn't need them in my life.  The small package would be enough. But when you have a soon-to-be addiction, that little voice in your head just won't stop...

until...

you buy them!





That soon-to-be addiction is now a real one.  I love the way these pens glide over the paper without smearing and the colors...oh, look at the colors.  The sad part is, I know there is an even bigger package lurking on the shelf!

But I am not listening!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Little Commenting Math ~ #sol17


I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. ~ Stacey Shubitz


This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.

We are twenty-three days into the challenge.  Ideas for posts are becoming more difficult to find, and the neglect of other responsibilities in order to read and comment on slices may be at an all time high.  

Sometimes I feel as if my computer has a suction hose and is keeping me attached to the screen and keyboard.  I begin reading slices and commenting and find that hours have passed.  I have forgotten to start dinner, left laundry in the washer, and stayed in pajamas until noon...all because I was reading and commenting.

Then the guilt sets in.  There are so many new slicers that I have yet to "meet" and regular slicers that have been forgotten, just because there is not enough time.  We all know that it is the comments that fuel the writing.  When our writing has been acknowledged, we are motivated to continue.  That is the beauty of being a part of this community.  But it is also the time consuming part.


One day I decided to compute just how long it would take if I read and commented on every slice.  I went back through the daily posts at Two Writing Teachers and found the average number of posts was about 285.

If it takes four minutes to read and take in the deeper meaning and to leave a thoughtful comment on every slice, it would take 1,140 minutes for all 285 slices.  When you divide that by 60 minutes, it would take 19 hours!

Even if you are a quick reader and take just three minutes per post, it still takes over 14 waking hours!  If it is a commenting challenge weekend, you might take two minutes, BUT that still means 9 hours of commenting in a day!  

And that my dear slicers, is a little commenting math to think about as you read and comment today.  Now, to get back to that laundry!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Teacher's Rally Cry - A Snipped Poem #sol17


I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. ~ Stacey Shubitz


This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.

March is a time when we look and notice with a keen eye.  We notice small moments, and we look for stories of the past and of the everyday.  We wonder about the ordinary and marvel at the extraordinary.  We open our notebooks...

and yes, we steal ideas from others!  

As is the case with today's slice.  I found this idea on Pinterest, but the idea is a 2013 slice from Elsie at Elsie Tries Writing who took the idea from Alan at Living Life Twice. (See what I mean about stealing!)

Today's slice - a snipped poem - started out like this.  I cut words and phrases from magazines.  (I have to admit, this became a little addicting.)


After snipping, I began arranging and rearranging the words, grouping them together to form ideas.  I found that I had several different threads, but when put together, just didn't make sense.  After further arrangements, I began to see a common thought merge from the menagerie of snippets.  

What I found was a sort of rally cry.  I know teachers who question if teaching is what they want to be doing for the rest of their lives.  I know teachers are approaching the testing season and wonder if they have done enough.  I know teachers are exhausted, yet need to make it through these last few months of the school year.

This poem is for all of us, to help us realize we have important work to do and to encourage us to carry on.





I found the strength to do what I
       love --
making a difference,
to give others hope,








Oh, I wish...
the challenge ahead    
doesn't have to mean
everything perfect,









Don't just live --                     give something wonderful,
a change for the better,









Brave hearts --                        
you can make it.
Today is your day!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Man with a Box ~ #sol17


I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. ~ Stacey Shubitz


This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.

I recently came across an online photo gallery from Paul Willis, a photographer who worked in my hometown many years ago.  One gallery was labeled 1978, where I found this picture.  

I was captivated by this gentleman and his box.  I wanted to know the story, his story.

I emailed the photographer and asked him if he remembered anything about the photo.  Unfortunately, he did not.  He told me that it was early in his career, and he would drive around the county taking photos of "everything I saw."  Many times photos such as these were never published in the paper to avoid embarrassing someone.  

I have no name and no story, so I decided to create one through a conversation in verse 

between a little boy

and the man with a box.


Photo by Paul Willis


Good morning, sir
how are you today
weather sure is chilly
isn't it

I'm curious about your box, sir
looks like a special box
a box where I would keep 
my important stuff

May I have a look, sir

hmmm....


Is that important, sir


One day, son

a long time ago,
I learned what it was like 
to live without

One day, son

you'll understand 
that what's important in life
doesn't fit in a box

but fits perfectly

in your heart

Yes, sir


© 2017 Leigh Anne Eck