Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Slice of Life - One's True Self

Two Writing Teachers

As I was reading a post on the Nerdy Book Club this weekend, I was reminded of a conversation that took place this summer between me and my son, Ethan.

I have two children, Megan a junior in college, and Ethan a junior in high school. The one thing they have in common is that they are both very quiet.  But Megan is a perfectionist who is very driven, while Ethan will probably live to be 120 because he is so laid back and doesn't let much bother him.

Three weeks before school started, I had taken him and his girlfriend shopping at a nearby mall.  As we were searching for tennis shoes that he liked and came in a size 13.5, we came across a display of Converse Chuck Taylor shoes.

"Oh mom, can I get a pair of these?'  he asked.

I quickly replied, "No, you won't wear them and it would be a waste of money."

"But I really want these,"  he continued.  "Come on.  These are cool."  He tried on a pair, and I tried really hard not to laugh.  This was just not something he would typically wear.

Needless to say, I won that battle, and we left the store without a pair of the Chuck Taylor's.

The real reason I didn't want to buy those shoes is because I thought kids would make fun of him.  I was trying to protect him from something I believed would be inevitable.  

I was trying to protect him from the cruelness of people who are insensitive to those who are different from them.

Two weeks later Megan and I were in Nashville shopping and I received this picture as a text on my phone.  It is my son wearing a pair of Chuck Taylor's.

I immediately texted back and asked him where, when, and why he got those shoes.

"Dad and I just got back from Kohl's and he bought them for me."  

I could not believe it.  I just knew this was the beginning something much bigger. Ethan has many friends, but is not one of the "popular" kids.  He is a golfer, but isn't what I would call one of the "jocks."  He plays the guitar, but he isn't in band.  School started, Ethan began wearing the shoes, and I began to worry.

A neighbor of ours found out that Ethan was wearing the black Chucks.  "G-man," as we call him, has stage four cancer and has started going through things and giving things away.  For some reason, he had a closet full of Chuck Taylor's that had never been worn...and in the exact size Ethan wore.  Ethan now not only owns one pair of Chucks, but six!  And wears them everyday!


So, as I read Sunday's  Nerdy post, I couldn't help but think about these words.

Let’s recall Emerson’s quote from up top, and agree that one of the greatest achievements in life is to become, simply, one’s true self.

To be content in your own skin.
To not look to others for your cues.
To accept and trust who you are, to follow your own inner compass.
I was worried about other kids making fun of Ethan.  But he wasn't.  Maybe I should realize that Ethan might just be his own true self.  That he accepts and trusts who he is.  That he follows his own inner compass.

That he is content in his own shoes skin!

Isn't that one of the goals of parenting?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  Be sure and stop by to participate and see what others are reading and recommending.

This weekend I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  What a fun book! This book is creatively crafted, woven with puzzles, videos games, book titles, and intrigue.  The main character, Kyle, resembles many of the students I have had throughout my years of teaching.  He would rather be playing videos than read a book any day.  I just have to chuckle when he says, "I'll have to put that one on my reading list."  

If you have reluctant readers, especially boys, then this book might just be the answer to get them going.  Although some of my 4th graders could read this book, I think it is more suited for 5th grade to middle school students because of the difficulty of keeping track of all the twists and turns in the plot.  

On deck for this week - two more books that I have heard so many good things about.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! 10/26

Each Saturday join Ruth Ayres to share and celebrate events from your week.  Looking for small celebrations has certainly improved my outlook on my week.  For that, I am certainly grateful to Ruth and all of you who choose to celebrate.

Today I celebrate partnerships.  We all know how important relationships and partnerships are in the classroom.  Writing and reading groups, mentorships, grade level collaborations.  The list goes on.  But what about community partnerships?

We have a local McDonald's who gives generously to our community and especially to our school corporation.  Most of their work is anonymous.  They do not want, nor expect to be given recognition for the many positive things they do.

Each year they host a McTeacher Night for our four elementary schools.  Our night was last week.  Teachers sign up to work, and the students bring in their families to eat.  The kids always get a kick out of watching teachers make McFlurries or fries and even working the drive-through window.  McDonald's then gives a certain amount of the proceeds from the night back to the school.  

I worked at McDonald's when I was sixteen in high school and during breaks and summers when I was in college.  It was a fun place to work, but as a teacher I prefer to work the lobby and talk to my students, former students and soon-to-be students!  It is such a fun night....a great night for celebrating families and community partnerships!

Three of my fourth graders.

A second grader and future fourth grader.

Me with a former student, now a freshman.
Have a great week and may you be blessed with many celebrations!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Slice of Life - Little Notebooks for Little Slices

Two Writing Teachers
After I started blogging this summer, I knew I wanted to try the March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.  But after the first nine weeks of school, I began having some doubts.  I just didn't see how I could accomplish this goal.

It seemed as if I consistently ran out of day before my endless list was complete.  How in the world would I ever find the time to write a post every...single...day in March when I am struggling with writing one every Tuesday!

My other doubt was how would I ever find thrity-one different ideas to write about?

Reading your blogs, I have learned that many of you "borrow" ideas from each other.

Yes, the lightbulb finally came on!  Why can't I do that?  I mean, isn't that mentor text at its finest!

OK, that problem is solved, but now another one.   I read blogs anytime, anywhere...sometimes I even sneak a peak in the middle of the school day!  How will I ever remember all of those ideas I read about when sometimes I can't even remember why I walk into a room?  I always think, "Oh I'll remember that!"  Wrong!

Another lightbulb moment - find a notebook!

I decided I needed to start keeping slice ideas in a separate notebook.  After reading Terje's post last week, I knew I wanted a special notebook just for slices that was a reflection of me and my personality.

I knew I wanted it to be small enough to carry with me.  

I knew I wanted it to express my personality.  

I knew this was the one!

I was so excited that it was green polka dots, just like my blog.

So I am now "armed and ready" to start borrowing ideas, searching for those little nuggets that I can turn into a slice and collecting them in a special place.  Hopefully, by March I will have so many ideas, finding the time to write is the only thing I will be searching for.

Monday, October 21, 2013

National Day of Writing - Perfect Timing

Saturday as I was posting my celebrations on Ruth Ayres' blog, I noticed my next post would be number 25.  A small milestone, yet its importance is monumental.

I thought, "Hey, I have made it this far.  I should write about it."

My first thought was to write a list of 25 things I learned through writing on my blog to celebrate.

But, wasn't feeling it.

I already had Monday's IMWAYR ready to go - my list of Mock Newbery Book Club titles for those of you who asked.

Already had my slice written for Tuesday - yes that is a first!  I really need to start "It's Monday Night!  Is Your Slice Written Yet?"

So, I decided against writing my list.  Besides, no one would want to read that anyway.

Day over.

Went to bed.

Sunday morning after reading the paper, I opened my computer and there was Katherine's post on Read, Write, Reflect about National Day of Writing.

She wrote one...little...word...WRITE!

Perfect timing!

So here is my list of 25 things I have learned about writing on my blog and the connections I have made.

a blank page is scary
a blank page is full of possibilities
writing is hard
it starts with just one word
words hurt
words comfort
words make me cry
words make me smile
words make me laugh
feedback and comments are important
proofread comments
writing communities are important
writing connects me to people I don't even know
sharing my writing makes it easier to write again
ideas are easily forgotten
get a notebook
write in the notebook
everyone has a story to tell
stories are found everywhere
small celebrations are still celebrations
celebrate throughout...not just when through
write about the small things
write about the big things
write about things...nature is full of "things"
just write!

I am blessed to be connected with this writing community.  You support; you encourage; you push me to become a better writer and to reach goals I never thought were possible.  Thank you for helping me believe.

It's Monday! Here's What We Will Be Reading!

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  Be sure and stop by to see what others are reading and recommending or to participate.

Saturday I wrote a post about celebrations, thanks to Ruth Ayres and her Celebrate This Week Link-up.
I was celebrating the inauguration of my Mock Newbery Breakfast Club.  I had a couple of people ask what book titles I was including, so I thought I would write today about those books we WILL be reading.

All of the books were recommended on Goodreads and by teachers on various websites.  My goal is to persuade my readers to read books which are out of their comfort zone.  These students are high ability, and I want to push them to think more critically about the books they read.

Here's the list I currently have but several more I want to add.  I have not read all of them, so I welcome feedback on my choices or other titles you feel I need to find.

Happy Reading!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! 10/19

Each Saturday join Ruth Ayres to share and celebrate events from your week.  I have several things to celebrate this week, but I have chosen two to share today!

Celebration One - Monday morning I started my Mock Newbery Breakfast Club with my high ability 4th graders.  It is a small group, but they seem to be willing to accept the challenge of reading books which are out of their comfort zones.  I can't wait to start reading and talking about the books I have bought for this group...all recommended from many of you!  I hope this becomes a great way for me to celebrate books and talk with my students.

Celebration Two - Last week we held our parent - teacher conferences.  This year I decided to try student-led conferences.  What a success!

Yes, it was a little more work with the preparations and practicing with the students, but well worth it.  The kids were both excited and nervous about showing their assessment results and progress for the first nine weeks of school to their parents.  But I could see the pride on their sweet, little faces...students and parents!

Accountability has been the buzz word for teachers, but this year I have made it a part of my classroom.  I think students (and parents!) need to be held accountable for their learning.  Because of the conferences, the students have a deeper understanding of the assessments they are given, the way their grades are determined, and the expectations set for them.  I anticipate great things happening and many celebrations as we go forward.

For those of you who already use student-led conferences, is there anything you would do differently?  If you don't use them, you might want to consider this.  I think it will give you a reason to celebrate!

Have a great week and may you blessed with many celebrations!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Slice of Life - Coincidence or Message?

Two Writing Teachers
Do you believe coincidence?

Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?   

Or do you fall somewhere in the middle?

Last week I received an email from my sister-in-law, Angie.  She was telling a story about what she thought was a typical flight back home for her job.  Here is part of her email:

I was traveling this week and spent a lot of time on planes.   I don't like to "chat" on planes and usually find a way to not have to engage.  It is a busy time and I was hopeful that I could make good use of my time flying and get some much needed work done.  All was good on my flight there…nobody in the seat next to me and plenty of room to work on my laptop.  

On the way back…100% full flight…ugh!  Too crunched to work on my laptop, so I thought I would put in my ear buds and watch a movie.  As my seat mate squeezed into the middle seat, we shared a few pleasantries.  The flight got under way and I watched a mindless movie.  When she needed to get up to go to the restroom I unhooked my buds.  Upon her return she asked "Would you like to see what I do for a living?"  I said "sure."  She pulls out her iPad and I immediately think she is a photographer, but quickly realize she is an artist.  

How do you think I looked when she showed me this?  Needless to say, we chatted the remainder of the flight.

The artist is Ramona Swift, and her artwork is magnificent.  (Many of her pieces remind me of pictures I would find on Elsie's blog!)

Now, let me get to the "rest of the story" and explain why this is so significant.

Several years ago my in-laws passed away within a year and eight months of each other.  My father-in-law passed first, followed by my mother-in-law.  

The day before Marge passed away, all seven of her children were at the hospital.  Two of the girls were in the room with Marge and the rest were in the family lounge.  The two sisters came out of the room and told a story about something strange that had just happened while they were in with their mom.  

They said a butterfly came up to the window and kept hovering like it was looking in.  It stayed at the window for quite some time.  They were fascinated that a butterfly would be up that high, the sixth floor of the hospital, and that it remained there for so long.

One of them said, "If it was anything but a butterfly, I would think it was Dad coming to get Mom.  But he wouldn't come back as a butterfly."

Frank, my father-in-law got to a point before he died where he needed a cane to walk.  He used a cane that belonged to my husband's grandmother.  Guess what it had on it?  Yes, butterflies.  My sister-in-law, Linda, tried to talk him into getting a more "masculine" cane but he said no, the purple cane with butterflies suited him just fine.

After Marge passed, the family went through some very stressful, difficult times.  Try to imagine seven siblings trying to make decisions.  Linda who was the one handling many of the details, lives in Kentucky.  She and my husband had many of the affairs in order, and she was getting close to returning home.  Before she went, she made one last trip to the cemetery.  

Guess what was there on the flowers covering the fresh grave?  Yes, a beautiful butterfly, giving her a sign, a message that said you can go home now, everything will be OK.

Was it a coincidence that a butterfly was hovering at Marge's window, beckoning her to let go and come home?  Or was it a message?

Was it a coincidence that a butterfly was on the flowers in the cemetery, giving Linda a sense of peace?  Or was it a message?

Was it a coincidence that almost three years to the day of Marge's death, Angie finds herself on a plane with this artist whose beautiful artwork is a meadow of butterflies?  Or was it a message?

Was it a coincidence that the artist wasn't even supposed to be on this flight, but the original flight was overbooked and she was bumped to this one?  Or was it a message?

Coincidence or message?  I'll leave that for you to decide....I already have my answer.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading?

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  Be sure and stop by to see what others are reading and recommending or to participate.

I am so excited to finally be able to do this!  Learning about blogging is very challenging to those of us who are "technologically illiterate."  Right before school started I figured out on my own how the get the link for Mentor Texts and the "It's Monday" button.  Believe me that was an accomplishment!  I couldn't wait to link up and share what I was reading.

Fast forward to school starting...the reading took a halt, and I have never been able to participate.

Last week my world slowed down enough for me to finally be able to read some books.  At last, I get to share!  Here is what I read last week.

Every Day After by Laura Golden

Although this book is set during the Great Depression, it is timeless.  The main character, Lizzie Hawkins could easily be one of the students in my classroom.  She's compassionate, she's driven, and she's a fighter.  I have a special place in my heart for Lizzie, because I too felt like I could never live up to my father's expectations.  You will love her!

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

This book left me wanting more.  I wanted to know more about John and Marta, more about why the boy on the porch didn't talk, and more about the ending of the story.  It's a book about different kinds of love, finding love in unexpected places, and losing love.  Quick read!

Here's what I am hoping to read this week:

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Each Saturday join Ruth Ayres to share and celebrate events from your week.  

I continue to be thankful for this writing community, the people like Ruth and so many others who I learn from each day, and the opportunities I have found to challenge myself as a writer.  I would consider this a reason to celebrate!

To many of you who are avid readers, my celebration may seem quite small.  Since school started on August 9th, reading has taken a back seat in my life.  The education world seems to never stop, and I have found myself on a bit of roller coaster this year.  But, this week I actually read two books and have started a third.

One night I even stayed up until 1:00 finishing Every Day After by Laura Golden.  Snuggling under the covers in bed with my reading light on felt like old times.  I am back in reading heaven!  Now that I know I can get back to reading and still maintain my busy schedule, I can celebrate!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Slice of Life - Words


Words can sometimes be so hurtful, especially when they are untrue and said about you.  Events from this week are behind  this short poem, unfinished and unpolished, but from my heart.

deflating my spirit
like a balloon
with a small leak

will not hold me hostage
from happiness
from being who I am

I will move on
to become a better, stronger person