Saturday, November 30, 2013

I Surrender!

That's it!  I'm done fighting!  I my Christmas tree lights!

We have had an artificial Christmas tree for about 15 years.  I love lots of lights and consider it a challenge to wrap every branch in lights from the inside out.

It seems that every year I have to replace a strand or two.  But this year it was different!  I always test the lights by plugging them in before placing them on the tree.  Tonight I had four strands where only half the lights worked....four strands!

I give up!  I am not going to replace four strands.  This year instead of wrapping each branch, I am spreading them out and living with what I have.  I'm not gonna like it, but I will survive.

When I think about all the technology our world has to offer, can someone really not invent Christmas lights that stay lit for more than one year!

I refuse to look at that bare spot on the bottom.  Tomorrow after I have cooled down, I might adjust them.  But I refuse to buy more lights!  The lights win this year!

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! 11/30

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

This week I celebrate traditions - the old, the new, and the undecided!

Our town rings in the Christmas Season the weekend before Thanksgiving by having our Parade of Lights and Downtown Christmas Stroll.  A pizza place on Main Street is the perfect place to eat before bundling up, finding the perfect spot, and watching the parade.  For years, my husband, two kids and I celebrated this tradition.  But the past few years, the kids have ditched mom and dad in order to go with their friends.  I guess that is part of parenting older children  This year, for some reason, they felt it would acceptable to be seen with us, so we celebrated the old tradition.  It was nostalgic...just as a Christmas parade with your children should matter how old they are.

I am a Black Friday shopper!  My first career was in retail and I loved every minute of the Christmas shopping season.  I love the crowds, the grouchy people, the lines and the traffic jams...well maybe not the last one!  Black Friday changed a little bit this year.  So, yes, I was out on Thanksgiving night with my daughter celebrating the shopping season - a new tradition which I think I am going to like.

For as long as I can remember, my grandma has made home-made noodles for our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  She is now 88 years old and can no longer carry on this tradition.  The family is still trying to find someone new to take her place, and for some reason my name came up in the conversation.  I guess they all think if I can make pies, then I can make noodles!  I'll let you know at Christmas if that becomes a new tradition to celebrate!  Although I miss her noodles terribly, I am so thankful that she is still with us to celebrate the holidays.

Last but not least...this isn't a tradition but my husband had back surgery Tuesday.  Here's to celebrating (hopefully) healing backs!

I hope you had a great week of traditions to celebrate, maybe even creating a few new ones along the way.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Letter to My Colleagues

Two Writing Teachers
Over the past year I have come across several blogs where teachers have written about why they became a teacher or why they stay in education.  At the beginning of the year, I sent out an email asking my colleagues that same question, thinking I would use it someday as a possible post.

I did not get much of a response, but most of the responses I did receive were from the teachers who are in our small Bible Study Group which meets every Tuesday morning.  I shouldn't have been surprised!  Many times this group keeps me going throughout the day, or sometimes even the week, with their support, encouragement, and positive attitudes.

Today, I write a letter to them, thanking them for their dedication, their inspiration, and simply for just being the positive people who I am blessed to be around each day.

My Dear Colleague,

Being a teacher in today's world is definitely a challenge.  I am sure many of you have asked yourself why do I stay?  How can I continue at this pace?  Why do I teach? 

Today, I hope to give you an answer.

You teach because you believe in the power of a smile.  At the end of the day, I see you with a smile on your face even after...
  • you were late for school because you changed what you were going to wear five times and you still thought it wasn't right,
  • your own children were bears on the way out of the house, 
  • you changed your lesson plans at the last minute, 
  • you went to the copy machine and it was broke again...or there was no toner...or paper,
  • your objectives weren't in the right place...or the right size...or the right color,
  • and you got evaluated for the second time this month!
You teach because you believe in the term positivity.  You see the positive things that happen in your classroom on a daily basis.  You get through the behavior issues, the student who consistently comes in late, the tattling, the talkativeness and still believe every day is a Friday.  You see the positive in every student, in every situation, in every new day.

You teach because you believe each child can learn - no matter their ability.  You always strive to get them to the next step, to make progress...even those who cannot write their name, read at grade level or get through the day without throwing a fit...or a chair.

You teach because you have a big heart.  You understand each child and the problems they face at home.  You give them a place to feel safe and to be loved.  A place with you, a place where those problems do not exist.

You teach because you believe in children.  To you, every child matters.  

You give them confidence 
          to try something new, 
               to not be afraid to try again, 
                    to have dreams, 
                         to reach goals they never thought were possible.

You teach NOT because you choose to, but because you were chosen...and that my friend makes all the difference.

Thank you for being my colleague,
Leigh Anne

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! 11/23

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

This week I celebrate "newness" lessons and new books!

I tried a new lesson this week in my math classes.  I love trying new ideas, but they are always surrounded by questions.  Will it work?  Will the students be engaged?  Will it push their thinking or help their understanding of the lesson?  

This was a hands-on lesson about lines and angles.  We used pipe cleaners for the lines, wooden triangles for arrows, and plastic circles for end points.  It was a huge success!  What a fun way to check for understanding.  I will definitely be repeating this lesson next year.

Demonstrating obtuse angles.

Our school library had a huge reason to celebrate this week.  Make that a $1000 reason to celebrate!  Our local Rotary Club donated $1000 to our school library to purchase new books.  The shipment came this week, and it just so happened to be our library time when the librarian began unpacking the boxes.  I squealed with delight as I pulled each title out of the box.  It felt like Christmas!  Here is just a small stack of the books that I was lucky enough to bring home and be the first to read.  Thank you Miss Christie! 

My weekend reading stack!

So, today I celebrate "newness!"  

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Moment of Fear

Two Writing Teachers

I am worried.

I am scared.

Tornado spotted on the ground.

Heading this way.

Kids not answering their phones.

Where are they?

Why won't they answer?

Finally Megan answers.

She is taking shelter.

She is safe.

Still no word from Ethan.

Where is he?

Why won't he answer?

I am worried.

I am scared.

The wind picks up.

The sky goes dark.

The rain pours down.

Knowing Ethan is out there...

I hold my breath.

I pray.

Finally he pulls in.

He is safe.

Relief settles in.

I breathe.

The sun shines.

Worry is gone...

For today.

Photos From Vincennes Sun-Commercial

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! 11/15

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

This week I am celebrating ideas!  Now this may seem like an odd celebration, but if you think about it, many celebrations start out as just an idea...a good one, a bad one, and even a crazy one.

Have you ever come up with an idea and then started doubting yourself, hearing the words...what in the world were you thinking?  I am a dreamer and a doer, and sometimes that can be a dangerous combination. 

I have this little voice that dwells inside my head, and it sometimes whispers these "great" ideas to me.  My husband tells me I need to stop listening to it! But I can't.  It's who I am.

Being a passionate reader, I am always trying to come up with ideas to share that passion outside the walls of my classroom.  

Two years ago after a consultant visited our elementary schools and the newspaper headlines blatantly stated   "Consultant Says Kids Can't Read,"  I heard that little voice.  I knew something needed to be done.  I knew I was the one to do it.

I came up with the idea of a community book drive.  Communities have food drives, blood drives, and canned food drives.  Why not a book drive?  We collected used and new books and donations to buy books, and then distributed them to over 1,000 students in our school district.  It was a huge success, but it was also a lot of work!

Now that I have entered the world of blogging, I began to ponder how I could use blogging to share my reading passion with my school.  I had already started a classroom blog, but I wanted something more than that.  Something where I could reach more people.

Here came that little voice.  I knew, once again, that I needed to react.  This is how the idea of The Franklin Bookmark came about.

This week I created an "unofficial" blog where our students, families and teachers can share all things about reading.  My vision is to review books for all grade levels.  These will be written by myself, current and former students, and teachers.  I want to feature student readers and share the reading lives of our teachers.  Families will be included by sharing tips and information about how parents can encourage, support, and celebrate reading at home.

I have no idea where this is heading.  I just know that little voice is whispering again.  I feel I need to listen.  

What do you think?  Is this a crazy idea?  Do you think it will work?  Do I need to approach it in a different way?  Most of you have much more experience with blogging than I have, and I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

So, today I celebrate ideas...the good, the bad, the crazy ones...and the ones that turn into celebrations!

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Everyone Has A Story - Even A Quilt

Two Writing Teachers

Saturday I was reading Linda Baie's post about the stories from her pottery pieces.  I began thinking about my quilting life and one very special quilt I made.

About 22 years ago, I taught myself how to quilt.  I have always loved old things, and my husband and I have collected quite a few antiques.  Browsing antique shops is where my love of quilts began.  I have actually been sewing for as long as I can remember, so becoming a quilter was a logical step for me.

After making my first quilt, I was hooked.  I bought, stashed, and hid fabric in all kinds of places, hiding it from my husband.  (I still don't think he knows how much fabric I have!)  I love walking through fabric stores and touching all of the beautiful fabrics, imagining the possibilities.

Although I have not quilted in about seven years, (actually since I started teaching!) I still have boxes and boxes of fabric. I have them stored according to their "genre."  I have large cuts - 4 or more yards and small cuts - 1 to 4 yards.  I have boxes of Christmas prints, children's prints, background prints, and solids just to name a few.  My scraps are sorted according to color - cool colors in one box, and warm and neutrals in other boxes.

As my passion for quilting grew, I started going to yard sales and auctions for fabric, quilt squares, or tops.  Once, I found two scrappy quilt tops that were unfinished.  One graces the door on a 120+ year old cabinet that belonged to my husband's grandmother, and the other hangs on a rocker and welcomes visitors on our front porch.

But one summer day, I hit the quilter's jackpot.  I bought five boxes full of nothing but scraps!  Now, to many people this was junk, but to a quilter, this was a treasure!

After I lugged the boxes home and started going through them, I was amazed at not only the amount of fabric, but also the age of the fabric.  Buried in the bottom of the box was a magazine with Elizabeth Taylor on the cover and the date of 1949.  Many of the fabrics in this box, which I still have, are now close to 65 years old.

I began the slow process of pressing, cutting and sewing the scraps into rectangles.  My mind was filled with wonder, filled with the stories these fabrics told.  I am sure there were scraps from kitchen curtains, little girls' and ladies' dresses, as well as men's clothing.  The fabric of these lives slid through my fingers, sharing their secrets.  I would sit at my quilting frame and, stitch by stitch, I listened to their stories.

Stories about marriages and families.
                    ...happy times and sad times.
                     homes and new beginnings.

                                        .....death and endings.

Stories I could only imagine.

After piecing together 227 different squares, my quilt was finally finished.

If you listen carefully, it gently whispers 226 individual, unique stories - 226 different fabrics with only one fabric repeated.  (Although that was not my intention, it does create quite a good conversation!)

This isn't an everyday quilt we use in our home.  It is carefully folded and rests on an antique cabinet in our living room, beckoning for someone to listen to their stories.

Close your eyes.


Can you hear them?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! 11/9

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 with us.

This week I have a somewhat-selfish-celebration.  Today I celebrate personal days!

Eleven days ago...not that I am washer went out.  The repairman came a week ago Friday and of course had to order a part.  They called on Monday and said someone could be here on Wednesday to fix it.  My husband was going to be out to of town, so that left me to take care of it.  

I had seriously been thinking about taking a personal day to get "caught up."  I am at that point in the school year when I feel like the walls are crushing me to the point where I am overwhelmed   I keep trying to get more and more done in the same twenty-four I always have, but find myself getting farther and farther and behind.  I knew I needed a time-out.

I typically do not like to miss school, but when this opportunity came to take a day off, I immediately took it!

Wednesday morning I slept in...well it was only 7:30, but that is sleeping in for a school day.  I ate a leisurely breakfast while reading blogs and the newspaper.  I took a long shower with no one hollering their need to get into the bathroom or rushing me to get out.

I read somewhere that if your to-do list is so long, you will get better results if you make a list of three things, complete those, and then add another three.

So, at 9:15 I finally settled in with my list of three "to-do's."  I created list after list and accomplished so much.  Math facts graded, data tracked and analyzed, writing prompts scored, assessments created, plans made.

Although the part did not fix my washer, and I ended up buying a new one that day (not part of my celebration!) I went back to school on Thursday refreshed and less-stressed, and with a much smaller to-do list.

So, today I celebrate personal days!

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Breaking the Cycle

Two Writing Teachers

Last week at our school, we celebrated Red Ribbon Week.  We had activities which encourage kids to be drug and alcohol free.  Students were given a pledge card where they stated "I pledge to be drug free because when I grow up I want to be..."

One day I walk down the hall reading the pledges written by my students from last year.   I smile at their career choices.  I see the professional athletes, but I also see a chemist, an interior designer, a writer, and a stand-up comedian.  Quite a menagerie of dreams!

My eyes focus on one.

My breath is taken away.

My heart hurts.

I think about "Amy" and the life from which she came.  A life of abuse.  Abuse most of us could never even imagine, let alone live through.

Her mother was a drug user and eventually lost her life due to an overdose.  Her youngest sibling was just a newborn at the time.

Although Amy still has emotional issues, she has come so far.  When most kids are dreaming of what they want to be when they grow up, Amy was worried if she would even get the chance to grow up.  If she would ever be loved the way a child is supposed to be loved by a mother.

She and her siblings were in and out of foster homes for many years, but they thankfully landed in a foster home with a loving couple.   Eventually, the couple adopted all four children and gave them stability, love, a home, a family.  My hope and prayer is that this cycle of abuse will stop with Amy.

Today, as I reread her pledge card...

My eyes focus on one.

My breath is taken away.

My heart hopes.

A great mom not a drug person who smokes.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! 11/2

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 with us.

Today I am celebrating fourth grade writers.  Last week was a great week in writing workshop.  Not because it was perfect.  Because we are moving closer to where I want it to be.

Our district fourth grade teachers focus on different writing each grading period.  Last nine weeks it was personal narrative, and this nine weeks it is descriptive writing.

Each student chose a topic and wrote a descriptive paragraph.  Many of them wrote about one topic and then decided to write about another one, giving them choices in which to publish.  Celebrating choice!

During this unit, I have used many mini-lessons from Two Writing Teachers which focus on adding details to characters, setting, emotions, and objects.  Specifically showing them how to add details to their writing instead of just telling them to "add details" was a lightbulb moment for them.  Celebrating revision strategies!

This week was the first week we had writing partnerships.  Talking to their partners and receiving feedback was so important.  They began to see the importance of writing for a reader other than their teacher.  Celebrating writing communities!

Finally we published the writing on Kidblog.  We started the year using Kidblog, but again, it just wasn't where I wanted it to be.  Many of their comments were what they would write on Facebook or other social media.  I wanted this experience to be more authentic.

After reading the blog from Katherine's students last week, I knew this was something my students needed to see.  Before they were ready to publish, I showed them the student posts and the comments.  They were impressed by the writing and was finally able to see what good comments were supposed to look like.  Celebrating publishing!

Here is an example of a descriptive paragraph written by Coleton, one of my students.

"I walked into the room and there stood Babe ruth.  He was a very large and fat man with small arms and legs.  He had a 5 inch cigar sticking out of his mouth, and a hat pulled down low by his eyes.  His head had chubby cheeks, and fit right on his shoulders.  They looked like boulders   Right there stood the greatest hitter of all time."

Celebrating writing!

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