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

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Bench ~ #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.

"Leigh Anne, you have a visitor," a sorority sister announces on the intercom in my room.

A visitor?  I never have visitors.  Who would be visiting me at 8:00 at night?  These questions invade my thoughts as I make my way to the foyer of our sorority house.  

Looking down over the balcony, I see my grandmother and my mom standing just inside the doorway.  I immediately think, who died?

"What are you doing here?" I ask, studying their faces for a possible answer.

"We just came to get you and Janis (my sister who went to another college in Indianapolis) for a little bit," explains my mom.

I know something is up because she wouldn't drive over two hours on week night for nothing.  But she assures me that no one has died.  I go back to my room, get my coat, and leave with them, still not knowing the real reason for their visit... 

The night I learned my parents were getting a divorce will forever be etched in my memory.  It was October, and the night air was chilly.  We were sitting on a bench on my sister's college campus when my mother told us that she and my dad were separating.  We had questions, many questions.  I was twenty at the time.  

Many people believe divorce is harder on younger children.  But I don't.

Twenty years is a long time to be a part of a family.  

Young children are told "Mommy and Daddy just don't love each other any more, but we both still love you," and they begin their life being shuffled between two households.  Young children are more resilient and often accept this new way of life.

But twenty year olds understand.  

We understand the lies, the deceit, the cover-ups.  

We understand what it means when a parent doesn't come home at night.  

We understand the words affair, adultery, unfaithful. 

We understand the emptiness of the words, "I am sorry."

We understand that a family can be shattered 

in a single moment 

on a bench 

on a college campus.

It's something we don't forget.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Writing Gift ~ #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.

Writing every day is a challenge, not only in finding the time, but in finding the topic and writing something that is worth sharing.

Too many times this month I feel I have slapped a slice together and hit the publish button, just to fulfill the requirement of writing posting each day.  I have reasons excuses, but I don't allow excuses from my students, so I don't want to use them either.  

I have "met" a new blogger this month, and her writing has inspired and refueled me as a writer.  She crafts slices of memories that place me, the reader, right there.  She is a true wordsmith, using perfect words to create the perfect image.   Her writing sucks me into her story, day after day after day.  I have placed many of her slices in my mentor text file, not only for my students, but for me as well.

If you have not had a chance to read Fran Haley's slices from Lit Bits and Pieces, I encourage you to find some time today.  And when I say time, I mean time to read each and every piece of her writing.  I promise, you will come away inspired and motivated to reach for the pen.

In one slice she writes about “...creating the magic” – writing about what matters to you, tapping into your heart, your dreams, your struggles, your memories, making your writing authentic so you can help students do the the same..."

I have lost some of that magic this month.  I wonder if it is because I am just trying to "complete the assignment."  But for me, that is not why I write.  She also says,


"Writing is the closest thing to magic that there is. As teachers we create the atmosphere for our writers. It’s one of excited expectancy, of energy, when young writers discover the power within them, learning how to harness words to impact readers. Writing, after all, is meant to be shared – it’s the connecting of human minds and hearts."

It is our responsibility to create that magical atmosphere for our students.  But when another slicer creates it for us, we are given a gift.

I am on spring break this week, and I will have some extra time to accept the gift I have been given through Frans's writing.  I hope to "harness words" and reconnect with my writerly self to find that magic once again.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Spring Break Resolutions ~ #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

Spring break has arrived!  That is a celebration!  No snow days make for a long winter, but I will love those Fridays off in May!

I typically become overambitious during Spring break week with a to-do list that is longer than my days.  I want to be productive, yet I still need time for me and for relaxation to refuel for these last eight weeks of school.

To leave room for celebrations, I have created a plan.  I have decided to make spring break resolutions  - one for each day (but not in any particular order) and includes a little fun mixed in with a little work.  

Hopefully a week from now, I can celebrate many accomplishments!
  1. Clean my house
  2. Read two+ books and mail them to my #bookrelays team
  3. Finish writing an article
  4. Have lunch with a teacher friend
  5. Write a conference proposal
  6. Finish Ruth's online course
  7. Try a new recipe
Have a great week, and may you find many celebrations 
along the way!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Miracles ~ #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.

  


It's also Poetry Friday, and Robin Hood Black has the roundup today at Life on the Deckle Edge.

No shamrocks, no leprechauns, not even any green today.  

Instead, I chose to think about the small things in life, the things we sometimes may take for granted.  It may be that we live in such a hurried world, and we forget to stop and pause and wonder.  Or it may be that things have become too ordinary.

When I return from Spring Break, I will introduce my students to "Miracles" by Walt Whitman.  This poem, with its list of miracles, helps me to remember that my world is made up of the little things, the little miracles

in the every day, 

in the ordinary.

I hope you take some time this weekend to answer Whitman's question:  "What stranger miracles are there?"  I may just answer him in my own little poem as a slice this week.

Miracles

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the
        water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
        with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
        forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
        quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the
        same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
        ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Achoo! #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.


drip
drop

                  wheeze
                  wipe

                                    snort
                                    snot

achoo!

                                  cough
                                  cuss

                                                     sniff
                                                     snuff

                                                                        blow
                                                                        breathe

I'm through!



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Currently I'm... ~ #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.

It is Monday night, and I am dealing with "The Crud."  

I am miserable, and miserable times during the March Slice of Life Challenge call for a quick slice.  

A quick slice calls for a currently post.

Currently I'm...

watching the final blind auditions on The Voice
eating cherry pie on "Pi Day"
wondering how I am going to talk tomorrow if my voice keeps going
needing to get ahead in planning and writing my slices
wanting to go to bed early so I am not a grouch tomorrow

anticipating three more days until Spring Break

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

If My House Could Talk ~ #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.

Sometimes I wonder, years from now when I have left this world, who will live in our house. Would it be the home to a young couple just starting a family, as we were when we built it?  Would young children write on its walls, sneak through the secret doors in the closets, or wheel cars down the wide, scratched, wooden-planked floors?

We built it.

We loved it.

We loved in it.

But still, I wonder what the walls would whisper, what secrets they would reveal?  If my house could talk, I hope it would say something like this...



a door opens
and welcomes you
to hear about

a family who 
appreciated the past
yet savored today

love, laughter, joy 
woven like patchwork
held them together

dinners eaten on
the antique table
marred with memories

rocking chair rhythms  
scarred the wood
but preserved forever





porch swing pastimes
cradled their dreams
embraced their tomorrows

within these walls
filled with happiness
a family grew

their cherished moments
beautifully turned into
years of love


Monday, March 13, 2017

A Pre-slice to If My House Could Talk ~ #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.

This slice is a prelude, a lead-in, a pre-slice, a preface, a prologue to the slice I will have later this week.

Saturday, I was working on a slice called, If My House Could Talk.  As I was making a list in my notebook, I decided to ask the other occupants what they thought our house would say.  

My daughter, who was sitting on the couch grading papers, responds, "Help me!"  

My son was at work, so I texted him the question.  He responds, "You all take too many naps!"

My husband responds, "There's a lot of love in this house."  

At least one of them got it!


Sunday, March 12, 2017

I read, therefore... #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.

Last night I was looking through some tweets from the Michigan Reading Association Conference, (#MRApassport) and came across this one.  I thought this would make a perfect slice for my busy day!



I read; therefore, my children walk in and say, "Guess it's leftovers...again."

I read; therefore, I have to rewash the stinky laundry that sat in the washer for days.

I read; therefore, my students say, "Mrs. Eck, you look tired today."

I read; therefore, I announce, "Not tonight, I have three chapters left."

I read; therefore, I stay in my pajamas all day.

I read; therefore, my favorite shopping trip involves a book store.

I read; therefore, I add Amazon gift cards to my grocery cart to keep my purchases a secret.

I read; therefore, I ship my Amazon purchases to school. (Shh...)

I read; therefore, I have tinted reading glasses for poolside.

Happy Reading!

When I first wrote this slice, I had a comma after read and then the rest of the sentence.  After realizing I am teaching parenthetical elements this week, I thought it would be a good idea to go back and fix them...even though I like them better the other way!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Book Shout ~ Celebrate 2017 (nine)


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.  


This quote by Steven Layne has been mantra for most of my teaching experience.  I celebrate that power each and every day in my classroom. 

I have always believed in the power of read-alouds and book talks.  I know from experience that talking about books increases student motivation.  My students do not need pizza, prizes, or other rewards.  They just need a teacher who knows how to use a great book.

This year I took my book talks school wide through our morning show.  Our morning show is written, produced, and performed by our students.  I have a weekly segment called Book Shout where I give a book talk to our entire school.  

Sometimes I talk about a book, and other times students or teachers talk about one.  I believe that motivating kids to read is not the sole responsibility of the reading or language arts, but every teacher.  

When we live literate lives, we grow literate lives.

Here is a clip of my debut show, explaining why teachers who read are so important.



Bare with me as this is my first Youtube upload, and it is just a clip of the show.  I cut out the part where I sing how reading makes me want to shout, kick my heals up and shout! :)

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Lost Generation ~ #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.
  

It's also Poetry Friday, and today's slice is about a poem that had an impact on my teaching as well as my students. Slide on over to Today's Little Ditty where Michelle has the poetry round-up.

This week we have been working with tone and mood.  We have read pieces of literature and determined the tone and mood, and we have written our own pieces, changing the tone to create a different mood.

Poetry is my favorite genre to teach this skill, and I recently came across the poem, "The Lost Generation" by Jonathan Reed.  Some call it a palindrome poem or a reverse poem.  When the poem is read down or forward, it takes on a new meaning than when it is read up or backward. This is certainly the case with this poem.

When I showed my students this video of the poem, I did not have to say a word about tone and mood.  They got it!  My students not only understood the tone and mood of the poem, they also understood the meaning of the words and the role they, themselves, play in the world today.

I hope you enjoy "The Lost Generation."