Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chalking in the New Year

I am joining Betsy at Teaching Young Writers for her Chalk-A-Bration.  Join her the last day of each month for a celebration of chalk and poetry.  Stop by her blog to read more about it.

This is my first experience at chalking (as I am sure you can tell)  and is tied to my one little word for 2014 - REACH.  

This year I want to reach out and embrace new things, push my thinking, and challenge myself.  I loved writing poetry when I was younger, so this may be a way for me to reach out and try something new with my writing.  

2014 One Little Word - Reach

Read more slices at
Two Writing Teachers
Before I can explain how this year's one little word came to me, I need to go back to last year. Although I did not have my blog this time last year, I did have a one little word.

Last February I realized something was missing in my life and my career.  I wanted more.  I wasn't sure what it was, and I certainly didn't know where to find it.  I felt like I was just going through the motions each day, hoping something would eventually change.

I had been following a few blogs pretty regularly, and I just happened to be in my bedroom reading a post written by Ruth Ayres about a website that was recommended to her.  Reading through that blog changed me.  It was an unbelievable God moment for me, and I sent this email to three of my teacher friends, wanting to share my experience.

Many bloggers at the beginning of the year choose "one little word" that they focus on for the year.  I have thought about this a lot...trying to find my word.  I have played with the word "search"...the search to be a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, person and teacher...the search to find God in a better place in my life...the search to find where my faith fits in...the search to find the confidence to write.  

Tonight I stumbled on this beautiful website, and I knew that I had picked the right word.  I know it was not a coincidence....I was lead here.  

Tears came to my eyes until I was almost sobbing, and I honestly for the first time in a long time felt His presence in a way that I have desperately needed and have been "searching" for.  Just listening to the music is enough to bring tears.  I have just started perusing the site and wanted to share it with you...

Tonight I begin my "search" to become all of those things and more....I think I am ready!


That is how my one little word for 2013 found me.

Searching,  I made some positive changes and became a much better person, I challenged myself, and YES...I started writing.  I can look back on 2013 and believe with certainty search was the right word for me.

A few months ago, I thought I had found this year's OLW.  We were talking in our Bible study group at school about being intentional in our relationships.  The word "intentional" was speaking to me.  My search was successful, and I thought I needed to become more intentional.  I was all ready to write about my OLW until I saw a tweet the day after Christmas from Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience about her Christmas tree.  Being curious, I clicked on the link and found this amazing story...and my word.

In November they hung an evergreen branch, their Christmas tree, upside down.

Pictures are taken by Ann Voskamp from A Holy Experience

By Christmas Eve, the branches were reaching out.  These are the words she wrote:

If you hang your life upside down, if you live the upsidedown Kingdom, your life never dies, it’s never small — it reaches out. It grows larger.

Pictures are taken by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience

This one little word, REACH, unexpectedly found me.  I thought I already had my word, so I really was not looking for a new one.  Here again, on this same website, I found my one little word.

There are times when I feel like my life is upside down.  But now I know that living my life upside down will help me to REACH out and become a better me...that ME I searched for and found last year.

I have many new goals personally and professionally that I want to REACH.  I have relationships that I want to REACH out to and make stronger.  I am ready to REACH out and embrace what may come my way in 2014.  I am ready to REACH out and have my life grow larger...just like the evergreen tree.

Happy New Year!

If you have the time, please take a moment to go to A Holy Experience.  It will be an experience you won't soon forget.

Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 Reflection

Beginnings and endings naturally lead to reflection.

This week, I have been reading many 2013 reflections, lists, and "best-of's."  Although I don't have as much to reflect on, I still have some important events that have happened this year on my blog.

First Slice - I actually started my blog in April of this year, but it took two months for me to gain the confidence to actually write a real post, which was a Slice of Life found at Two Writing Teachers.

Personal Favorite Post - This post celebrated several firsts for me.  I had followed Katherine at Read, Write, Reflect for about a year.  She unknowingly became my silent mentor, and this post celebrated her first comment on my blog.  Since then, I have made connections with many people, and I continue to be inspired by their writing every day.

Most Commented-On Post - This post was about my relationship with my dad.  This one was hard.  It hurt.  I have not shared my feelings about this with many people, and I was a little apprehensive about putting it out there in the blogosphere.  I found through the comments that many people had similar experiences.  People connected with this post, and I knew that my words were healing for me and possibly others.

Most Viewed Post -  This post was a letter to my colleagues and had the most views.  Although this was written for a small group of teachers I work with,  I hope many teachers felt inspired to lift up each other and to find the importance of surrounding themselves with positive people.

I look forward to 2014 and all of the challenges, inspiration, and learning it has to offer!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! - 12/28

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.

I have enjoyed spending Christmas with family.  Ending the Christmas season and anticipating a new year is certainly a celebration.  We have one more family event tonight, and I am looking forward to spending time with my sister and my nephew from Tennessee.  

This week I am celebrating nothing...

Have you ever thought about when you have many things to do, you get many things done?

Have you ever wondered why you get nothing done when you have nothing to do?

That has been my last few days.  I have had no deadlines, no to-do list, no demands.  So I have just done nothing...and it has been deliriously delightful.

Slept in
No alarm clock
Stayed in my pajamas 
until whenever
Took a shower...whenever
One day...did not even take a shower!
Wore sweats
No make-up
Read many books
Read many tweets
Wrote many words
Ate many cookies
Too many cookies
Stayed up late

Today I celebrate nothing!

I hope each of you get a chance to celebrate "nothing" during your break!  For me, my to-do list starts Monday!  Have a great week!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reflection Fest - Day One

The end of the year brings with it a natural time of reflection, whether it be personal, professional, or spiritual.  As a teacher, I find myself reflecting before the school year starts and as a new calendar year starts.

Today as I was Twitter stalking, I came across a tweet about reflection from Any Rudd at The "Rudd"er.  Technically, I guess it was a retweet because it came from Teachingchannel.org.  For the next five days, they will pose a reflection question and ask teachers to share their triumphs, challenges, and goals.


Today's reflection:  Most Inspiring Moment

As teachers, I am sure we have many inspiring moments throughout our school year.
Some may be planned teaching moments, while others may be totally unexpected.

Sifting through my year, I have many that I could share, but this one stands out the most...maybe because it is the most recent.

I have a very athletic class this year.  Many of my boys and girls play multiple sports and are very competitive.  The week leading into Thanksgiving, our school had a food drive/competition.  The winning class was to receive an ice cream party.  As the days dwindled and the competition drew to a close, I knew we were not going to win.  I hesitantly approached my class with an idea that I had.

The contest was based on the number of food items per student in the class.  At our school we have a Life Skills special ed. class with around 10 students.  Several of our 4th graders are their "buddies" and they come to our special classes and a go out to recess with them once a week.

I asked the kids if they would be willing to give our cans to Mrs. Jones' class so her students may experience the joy of winning.  Knowing how competitive they are, I could not believe now excited they were about the idea.

We counted our cans, crossed out my name, and wrote Mrs. Jones as the teacher.  The day they announced the winners, my class waited with anticipated as the winning class was announced over the intercom.  When they announced that Mrs. Jones' class was the winner, my class jumped up and down, hollered and clapped.  One standing in the hall would have thought my class had just been announced the winner.

I was so proud of them for putting aside their competitiveness and desire to win just to make someone else feel special.  I think we all learned a valuable lesson in what giving is really all about.

I hope you will join us for Reflection Fest!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Because of My Mom...

Read more slices
at Two Writing Teachers

When I think about the people who have made the most impact in my life, two amazing women come to mind:  my mother and my mother-in-law.

Monday was my mom's 70th birthday.  When I think about what all she has accomplished in her life, I am amazed.  Life wasn't easy for my mom.  She survived a tough childhood, struggled through a divorce, raised four great kids, and worked hard to keep our family together.  Along the way, she taught us lessons in life...and back then of course, we weren't paying attention.  They weren't important.  We didn't want to learn them.  It wasn't until we became adults that we actually realized what all she has taught us.

I know that I have evolved into the person I am today because of her.  So, today I reflect on who I am...because of my mom.

Because of my mom, I am a reader.  My mom (and my grandma) has always been a reader.  Every Saturday mom would clean our house and shop for groceries. Nothing else happened until those two chores were done.  During the afternoon, we would go to the library and choose books for the next two weeks.  Saturday nights, we would fix popcorn, relax on the couch, and read our books together.  She taught me how books could take me places and change my life.  This is one of my favorite childhood memories!

Because of my mom, I can cook.  My mom worked extremely hard when we were kids, but dinner time was always important to her.  For the most part, we had home cooked meals everyday, and we were always at the diner table together.  As our high school schedules became more hectic, it became more difficult for this to happen.  But there was always one thing she made sure of - Sunday dinner was a family day.  She orchestrated and juggled schedules, and we may have eaten any time between 12:00 and 6:00, but we always sat down together on Sundays.  To help mom out during the week, I would often come home from school and start dinner for her.  By the time I finished high school, it was nothing for me to have fixed a complete family dinner...although I never have learned her knack for making gravy!

Because of my mom, I can sew.  My mom could sew anything from curtains to clothes.  Back then it was cheaper to make things than it was to buy them.  There were many times when she would make matching outfits for me and my sister.  We were only a year apart, and many people thought we were twins.  I remember mom making many of her dresses that she would wear to work...a Carol Brady look-alike...she even had the hair!  One year she even made my formal for a New Year's Eve dance.  She taught me how to sew at an early age.  The earliest sewing memory I have is when I was eight, and I received a sewing machine for Christmas.  I was sewing doll clothes from a kit, and I dropped a needle on the floor.  While I was down on my hands and knees looking for it, it went in my knee and broke off.  That landed me a trip to the emergency room.  Although I don't have time to sew now, through the years I have made clothes for myself and my children, curtains for my house, and quilts for many people.

Because of my mom, I became independent.  At the age of 40, my mom became a single mom with two kids in college and two still at home.  After my parents were divorced, she took a job four hours away from our home town.  She did not know a soul down there, yet she packed everything she owned and made a new life for herself.  My sister got married right out of college...but not me!  I wanted to explore the world...Ok, maybe just a few hours from home.  After I graduated from college, I began a career in retail and moved four times in four years.  I had the courage to be out on my own because my mom taught me it could be done.

Because of my mom, I am a hard worker.  When my mom moved to Tennessee, she worked for an automotive company which was eventually sold to a Japanese company.  She worked her way up in the company, and towards the end of her career became the purchasing director for North America.  She traveled all over the world and even lived in China for a a year and a half to start up the purchasing department for a new plant in Shanghai.  Two things are amazing about her career.  One is that women typically do not hold management positions in Japanese companies, yet she was promoted and earned the respect of the Japanese men.  The second is that she was successful, but she does not even have a college degree.  She married my dad at 18, had my sister at 19, and me at 20.  That didn't leave much time or money for college.  She took a few night classes occasionally, but she was successful because she was driven and because of her work ethic.  I learned from the best what hard work is all about.

To those of you with young children, remember you are giving them a gift...the lessons of life... which may not be opened for years to come.  But it will.  And they will appreciate and understand.

To those of you with older children, I hope this Christmas season your children will share the gift you have given them...the lessons of life...and thank you for what they have learned.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! - 12/21

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 the start of my Christmas break.  I absolutely love teaching, but I love my breaks!  A time to relax, restore, and rejuvenate.  

I celebrate taking a break from my responsibilities at school so that I can enjoy time with my family, especially my children.  They are the age where they usually just want food and money, but I am ready to spend some quality time with them.  My son asked me the other day if we could make Christmas sugar cookies...his favorite!  I said absolutely, thrilled that he still wanted to do this with me.  

I celebrate taking a break from setting the alarm so that I can stay up late reading, sleep in because I "just had to finish that book" and wearing my pajamas for as long as I want.  I have many books to read and will certainly find some to read on the Winter Pop-up Library.  
Check it out - free ebooks from December 21 - January 5!


I hope each of you have a great break and find many reasons to celebrate!

Now, I am off to continue shopping!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Blind Auditions

Read more slices at 
Two Writing Teachers

Watching television is not something I typically do, and my students never believe me when I say I don't watch TV.  I would much rather read a book, but the one show I never miss is the The Voice.

Singing is something I would love to be able to do.  Oh, yeah, I sing in my car by myself, but my singing career is limited to singing on Preference Night during my college sorority days!  (Anyone out there an Alpha Phi?)

Last night as I was watching the finals, I thought, "I am going to have blind auditions in my classroom next year."

Now, before you start thinking...what in the world is she talking about?  Let me explain.

For those of you who may have never seen The Voice, contestants sing with the judges' chairs turned around.  They base their decision strictly on the contestant's voice, not by their looks.  They don't even see them until they have chosen to turn around.

Every spring teachers at our school divide up their students to be placed in classes for the following year. The grade levels then get together and discuss the new class.  We have discussions about the students' strengths and weaknesses among many other things.

Before I even see my class, I have these preconceived thoughts about them.  I hadn't really thought about how unfair this was until I started watching The Voice and heard the contestants talk about how important it was that the judges chose them only on their voice.

I am thinking I will not have these conversations with my colleagues this year.  By having "blind auditions" for the students in my classroom, I will get to know my students without any bias, hearsay or preconceived thoughts.  I will get to know them for who they are the day they arrive in my classroom...my own blind auditions.

A side-note - Go TessAnne!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Remembering Sandy Hook

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.

I had my celebration post all ready to go, and then I came across this at Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders.  Suddenly, my celebrations - getting a new table - seemed so small and insignificant.

Robin, along with Greg Smedley-Warren from the Kindergarten Smorgasbord are asking us to remember the anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School by completing a simple act of kindness.

So, share this picture, spread the word, and do something kind today in honor of those children whose dreams were taken away and the courageous teachers who lost their lives while trying to protect them.  Think about what a true celebration it would be, if we all showed kindness today!

If you would, come back and share.  I would love to hear what you did to remember Sandy Hook!

Have a great week and may you be blessed with many reasons to celebrate!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Just Another Day

Read more slices at
Two Writing Teachers

As I sat and thought about my slice for this week, I looked at the calendar and realized that December 8th had passed me by.  It was just another day.

Forgive and forget?   Is one more important than the other?  Does one happen before the other?

Do you ever truly forgive, if your heart can't let go of the pain?  Will your heart heal, if you are truly able to forgive?  I have wrestled with these thoughts most of my life. Here is why...

Just Another Day

It's December 8th 
five years since
the day my dad passed away
but for me
it was just another day

I search my heart for memories
the happy ones seem to hide
the sad ones come to the surface

I was the second child
in two years
I was a disappointment
I was not a boy

Growing up was difficult
we never got along
it was always my fault
I was always to blame

Divorce came when I was twenty
some say divorce is harder on younger children
it's not
at twenty you understand
you know what tore your family apart

I tried to forgive
but somedays
my heart continues to hurt
even as an adult

I gave him his first grandchildren
their memories are 
the papaw with the presents

He never really knew
their unique personalities
their hopes
their dreams

December 8th
it's a snow day
his wife calls
you must hurry
not much time left

My sister and I
drive three hours
hoping to get there in time

In his room
we watch
his labored breathing
his last breath

My sister sobs at his side
I stand in the corner
 a tear comes
not because he is gone
but because of all he has missed

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! - 12/7

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 was a week of firsts!

First fire of the season - December is late for our first fire in the fireplace, but having a fire with the house decorated for Christmas is the absolute best!  This is also one of my top five places to read!

One of my favorite places in our house!

First snow and snow day - Friday we had our first snow day, which I really did not want.  I would prefer to have them in February and not two weeks before Christmas break.  But since we had to have one, it might as well be a Friday!  Let's celebrate long weekends!  We received close to 14 inches of snow.  The temperature is suppose to drop, so it isn't going anywhere soon.  I have a feeling we may be out Monday too!

The view out my back door.

Our house with 12 inches of snow on the ground!

Have a great week and may you be blessed with many reasons to celebrate!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Validated Nervousness

Two Writing Teachers
Today I have some mixed emotions.  Three teachers from our district are coming to observe my reading block this morning.  All three are peers in my grade level.

To say I am a little nervous would be an understatement.  I don't like being singled out for a variety of reasons.  One reason is because I don't like the attention, but the main reason is because I don't want to be labeled as one of "those" teachers who think their way is the right way.

I have only been teaching for seven years and I continue to grow each year.  But I have worked very hard to make my reading block what it is today.

My first year of teaching I taught four sections of 5th grade reading.  I followed the basal's weekly plans and did most of the accompanying workbook pages....I can hear many of you gasping right now!

I hated that year and so did my students.  I spent that summer creating my own professional development by reading and reading and reading.  That fall I changed grade levels, along with my reading instruction, integrating reading workshop.   The more I read about reading workshop, the more I knew that was the direction I wanted to take.   But about four weeks into the school year, I began feeling the pressure.  I caved in and went back to the basal...another gasp!

Each year since then, I have developed and refined my teaching instruction through my own summer professional development.  I have merged reading workshop, Daily Five, and our state-mandated reading block to what I use today.  It has been a long, lonely road because I have been trying to do this by myself.  I had no one to bounce ideas off of or to collaborate with.

My corporation is very basal dependent, but teaching with the basal just wasn't for me.  I wanted more, and I found that many teachers out there taught reading the way I wanted to teach it.  (I hope to write a post soon on how I became basal independent.)

This year our corporation is finally making changes in our reading instruction.  When I was approached about being observed, I was hesitant, but I also felt validated.  That maybe, just maybe, I am doing things right and all the road bumps I experienced along the way were worth it.  It has been seven years, and no, I still don't have it all figured out...but I have continued to move forward, and I know I am a better teacher because of it.

So, today I do feel validated nervousness, but I think it's a good thing.  I'll let you know for sure after today is over!