Saturday, September 20, 2014

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! - 9/20

Each Saturday  Ruth Ayres invites us to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week. Looking for 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 me.

Emotional endings.  I love them in books, but not so much in real life.  The end of this week was filled with different emotions which were coincidently tied to blog posts I wrote earlier in the week.

Today, I celebrate timing.

My Tuesday Slice of Life was about teenage suicide.  I was very hesitant about writing it because I didn't want to divulge information about the young man.  I sent the link to a teacher-friend at my previous school because we both had this student in our class.  She responded back saying how strongly she felt my move to the middle school would benefit so many students.  

Fast forward to Thursday.  A student asked to go to the restroom, and I noticed she was crying.  I followed her out to the hall to ask her about it, but she did not want to tell me why she was so upset.  I told her I could not help her if she didn't tell me what was upsetting her.   The moment she mentioned suicide and the name of her friend, a chill went through me and I immediately thought about my Tuesday post.  I saw the similarities in her friend and the boy in my post.  Hopefully, we have intervened and my student just may have saved her friend's life.

I believe in my heart I was meant to make this move to the middle school.  Writing that post made me think about how important teachers are in the lives of our students, not just in their learning.  That post was not only about my student - it was about all students who feel left out.  That post was meant to be written.

Today, I celebrate timing.

Thursday I wrote a post about forgiveness.  When Holly Mueller from Reading, Teaching, Learning, told us the topic for Thursday's Spiritual Journey was forgiveness, I had no idea how much I would need this post the very next day.  

Friday, I learned that once again, someone I respect and hold in high regard made a poor decision.  I went through the same thing at the end of the school year and wrote about it here.  I am still wrestling with forgiveness.  

Then, Friday happens.  I know we all make mistakes, but his actions will have huge consequences for him, his family, and his friends.  As we move forward, my thoughts about forgiveness will be tested.  My trust, my faith, and my friendship have been shaken once again.  I know I need to find it in my heart to forgive and I know that with God's grace, healing will take place.  That post was meant to be written.

Today, I celebrate timing.

After writing this celebration post, it does not seem very celebratory.  Actually it seems somewhat depressing.  But please know that I am smiling today, because I do have hope.  This week, I grew as a teacher, a friend, and as a person because of my writing and yes, because of timing.  THAT is a reason a to celebrate.

Have a great week and may you have many reasons to celebrate!

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Every Thursday Holly Mueller from Reading, Teaching, Learning, creates a place where readers can share their spiritual journeys.

Forgiveness is difficult.  Forgiveness is complicated.  Forgiveness is freedom.

Throughout my life, I have had a difficult time with forgiveness.  My relationship with my father was strained from my teenage years until the day he died.  When he and my mother divorced, our relationship began to divide even further because I blamed him for breaking up our family.  Many things happened after the divorce, and I let those things control me.  Forgiveness was difficult.

I felt in my heart that when I forgive, I must admit what was done was OK.  Many times it is not.  It certainly was not with my father.  A part of me did not want to forgive because it was synonymous with approval.  I wrestled with this for many years.  Forgiveness was complicated.

I remember watching an episode of The Oprah Winfey show where she talked about an "aha moment" about the definition of forgiveness.   Oprah quotes a guest on her show, "Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different."  

I do believe I came to a point where I forgave my father.  It was not that I accepted what he did, or that forgiving made it right.  I accepted what was done, and the past was not going to run my life.  Through the grace of God, I was able to let it it go.  Forgiveness is freedom.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reflective Teaching Challenge - My Superpower

Find more information here on how you can join other teachers for September Reflections hosted by Teach Thought.

September 16 - If you had 1 superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?

When I read today's challenge, I felt myself being swept back 40 years ago and sitting in my living room watching Saturday morning television.  I remember wishing I could be Isis (and no I don't mean the same ISIS as today!)

Andrea was a high school science teacher who obtained superhuman powers by taking out an amulet from her shirt and saying the magic words, "Oh mighty Isis!"  Isis, who was before Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman, was able to control weather, lift heavy objects with her superhuman strength, make things disappear and reappear, and stop time in its tracks. 

She was a dedicated foe of evil, a defender of the weak, and a champion of truth and justice.  Plus she was a poet!  Every power she acquired was requested through a poem.  

"Oh zephyr winds which blow on high,
lift me now so I can fly."

If I had a chance to become a superhero, it would certainly be Isis, and I would repeat these words as I tackled illiteracy and aliteracy in our schools and in society. 

"Oh dear students who do not read,
hear these words so you can succeed.
Reading can take you where you've never been
Open a book and climb on in."

I would be a foe of standardized testing and politics in education, a defender of the children in poverty and those who are bullied, and a champion of those who struggle with or do not care for reading.

The One

Check out Two Writing Teachers
to read more slices
or to post a slice of your own.

It has been a few weeks since I have written a slice.  This was not an easy one to write, but one that needed to be written.

This poem is about an unusual form of bullying, a silent bullying that goes on in many schools.  The way we treat people or in many cases, the way we fail to treat people can have a lasting effect, sometimes even a fatal one.  It is my hope the we continue to teach kindness in our schools, so young people will continue to keep their flames burning brightly.

The One

You don't know me personally,
But I am sure you know someone just like me.

When I was in elementary school, 
I was the one not chosen 
to be on a team
to read with a partner
to share a seat on the school bus.
I was the one not invited to birthday parties.
I was the one left to swing by myself
in my own little world
with no friends.

When I was in middle school, 
I was the one walking down the hall by myself.
I was the one who ate lunch alone
at the table farthest away from everyone else.
I was the one who didn't play sports
or play an instrument
or belong to the in-crowd.

Now, I am a senior in high school.
I am the one with a 4.0 GPA.
I am the one who has the potential 
to reach goals
to go far
to do anything I set out to do.

But I am also the one who sits home on Friday and Saturday nights.
I don't go to the football games.
I don't go to parties
I don't hang out with friends.

I am the quiet kid who doesn't get into trouble.
I am the one who is a people-pleaser.
I am the one who makes good decisions.

Most of the time.

I am the one about to make a decision that will affect many people.
I am the one about to take my own life,
to extinguish it 
like blowing out the flame of a candle.
Just like that,
I am the one who will no longer exist
in world where I have no friends
where I feel I don't belong
where I don't fit in.

People will blame themselves
and wonder if they missed something
if they could have stopped me.
They will wonder if I was the one
who was picked-on 
who was bullied.

None of that is true.

You see I am the one who was never hit
or harassed 
or intimidated
or teased.

I am a victim of an unwanted visitor 
who has been with me for a long time.
I am a victim of the silent bully,
the bully who pays no attention to kids like me.
I am the one who is simply ignored.

Maybe, just maybe
 if someone would have taken the opportunity
to get to know me
to become my friend,
I could be the one with the flame still burning.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reflective Teaching Challenge - My Favorite Part of the Day

Two days in a row - I am on a roll.  Find more information here on how you can join other teachers for September Reflections hosted by Teach Thought.

September 11 - What is your favorite part of the school day and why?

have thought a lot about this reflection.  I first started to write my favorite part was before the day starts because it gives me time to think about the day ahead.  

Then I realized this was the time when I feel the most helpless.  There are too many unknowns, too many unanswered questions and too many fears which make me apprehensive.

It is at the end of the day when I can stop and think about how our day went and how being a teacher really did make a difference.

I can think about that student who didn't understand a concept and how I made a plan for better understanding tomorrow.

I can think about that student who blew up today and how I helped him to problem solve and control his feelings.

I can think about that student who will go home to abuse but know that she felt safe and loved today in my classroom.

I can think about how that lesson I switched at the last minute because I was going to be observed went better than expected and wonder how I can piggyback on that learning.

I can think about almost tripping over a stool and how I saw one of my students smile for the first time.

Yes, at the end of the day, I can smile and feel blessed that tomorrow I get to come back and do it all over again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reflective Teaching Challenge - All About Me

I am still trying to blog with reflective teachers everyday, but sometimes daily life just gets in the way.  Find more information here on how you can join other teachers for September Refections.

September 10 - Share 5 random facts about yourself, 4 things from your bucket list, 3 things you hope for this year as an educator, 2 things that made you laugh or cry as an educator, 1 thing you wish more people knew about you.

Random Facts:

  1. I returned to school to become a teacher when I was 40.
  2. I am petrified of wind or tornados.
  3. I am a retired quilter
  4. I am a Peabody Leader in Education
  5. I have two dimples.
Bucket List:

  1. Be a published writer (other than my blog - that doesn't count!)
  2. Travel to the east coast and watch the whales migrate.
  3. Learn to sing (the shower or my car doesn't count!)
  4. Retire while I am still able to enjoy life.
  1. I hope to launch our Next Chapter Book Club this month.
  2. I hope to get more colleagues on Twitter.
  3. I hope to someday teach without worrying about things that really don't matter.
Things that made me laugh or cry
  1. Reading Wonder aloud to my students.
  2. The last day of school when I have to say goodbye to my current students.

I wish people knew that I am a "doer" because I want to "do."   Not for the attention or the recognition, but because it is how I am wired.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

Reflective Teaching Challenge - My Desk Drawer

I knew when I started the Teach Thought September Blogging Challenge that it would be tough for me stay with it...I lasted four days!  For some reason, the weekend is much harder for me to write and blog than during the week.  I am hoping to jump back in this week and maybe even catch-up on the few that I missed.  Find more information here on how you can join other teachers for September Refections.

September 8 -What’s in your desk drawer and what can you infer from those contents?

I am an office supply junkie!  I get so excited for back-to-school ads simply for the office/school supplies.  Looking in my top desk drawer, I can infer that I am obsessed with sticky notes.  Just in this picture, I can see seven different kinds and/or sizes.  I have the sticky notes on my computer, but they just don't "stick" like the real thing.

My note of choice is the Post-It Super Sticky 3 x 3 in lime green.  

My stash also includes:

4 x 6 lined for a long things-to-do list
4 x 4 lined for a short things-to-do list
2 x 2 for those small reminders
1/2 inch page markers to use as arrows
Easel pads for great portable anchor charts

and my favorite discontinued item was the word cards which were great for creating word walls!  I still have a few of those left, but I sure wish I would have bought more when they still made them.

If only I had stock in Post-Its!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Reflective Teaching Challenge - What I Love Most

Starting a new grade level gives me an excellent opportunity to truly reflect on my teaching and to continue to grow.  Thank you to Teach Thought for hosting the 30 Day Blogging Challenge focused on reflection.  Find more information here on how you can join other teachers for September Refections.

September 4 - The thing that you love the most about teaching.

Asking me to name the thing I love most about teaching is like asking me what is my favorite book?  I just don't think I could answer either question with just one response.

As with most teachers, I love building the relationships and seeing the lightbulb moments.  But, since I am a reading teacher, my answer would certainly pertain to books.  My ultimate goal is always to build lifelong readers.  Matching books to my students and seeing their reading life take off is a natural high for me.  

So many students are at a disadvantage because their teachers do not read.  I am not saying that not reading makes an ineffective teacher.  However, I do think it puts students at a disadvantage because it is much easier to make those connections between readers and books when a teacher has knowledge about books.  I take pride in my reading life and sharing it with my students.  I get a thrill when I can successfully make that connection.  It makes me smile when a student comes in the next day and can't wait to tell me how their book ended, or how late they stayed up reading a book.  

That is one of the things I love most about teaching.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Reflective Teaching Challenge - Improving My Evaluation

Starting a new grade level gives me an excellent opportunity to truly reflect on my teaching and to continue to grow.  Thank you to Teach Thought for hosting the 30 Day Blogging Challenge focused on reflection.  Find more information here on how you can join other teachers for September Refections.

September 3 -Mention 1 "observation" area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

I taught 4th grade for seven years before I moved to 6th grade.  The biggest change that I have found is the amount of time for instruction each day.  Now, I teach language arts which combines both writing and reading in a 48 minute period.

I came from a 90 minute reading block and a 45 minute writing workshop.  I was comfortable with my routines and how I taught both areas.  My day ran smoothly because my students knew what to do.  I taught mini-lessons, small groups and individual conferences while my students were engaged in authentic reading and writing.  I loved every minute of my day!  

Now, I am lucky to complete a full lesson without forgetting a part or running out of time before I am finished.  It is extremely difficult to get both reading and writing instruction in during a week's time.

I know this is an area in which I will need to focus.  Because of this, I have been reading many professional development books geared toward middle school and teaching workshop at this grade level.  It will be a continual learning process for me.

Hopefully I will have plenty of time to finesses my instruction before my first evaluation!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Reflective Teaching Challenge - Using Technology

I have started my first year as a 6th grade language arts teacher, and I know I have much to learn as I make way into the middle school environment.  When I read that Teach Thought was hosting a blogging challenge for teachers who want to reflect, I immediately accepted the challenge.  Because reflection is such an important part of teaching, and since I was teaching a new grade level, I thought this challenge would be perfect for me.  Find more information here on how you can join other teachers for September Refections.

September 2 - Write about 1 piece of technology that you would like to try to incorporate this year into your curriculum.

This summer I attended several conferences focused on technology.  By the time I left each one, my head was spinning with ideas to use and new tools to try.  Since today's prompt was to write about ONE piece of technology, I had to narrow it down.

Our school year began with arrival of Chromebooks for our English department.  Our previous experience has been on MacBooks, so this will be a learning experience for both students and teachers.

We also will be using Google docs for the first time, and I am so excited about using this tool as well. One of my goals on yesterday's post was to collaborate using Google docs.  I think this will be an excellent tool for students to use for the entire writing process.  Drafting on a computer adds excitement, and revising using Google docs lets me see the revision process because it automatically saves each change.  It will also eliminate carrying home 100 notebooks to read student writing.  Now, all I have to do is open my computer, and I will have the writing of all my students at my fingertips. 

If anyone has any tips for making our transition to Chrome easy, please share! 

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating a place to share our Slice of Life. Read more slices or add you own here.

Labor Day is the unofficial end to summer and the beginning of fall.  I am leaving my favorite season and moving to my other favorite season.  Yes, I like both summer and fall equally, so that means I am happy for half of the year.   

I know that spring brings flowers and green grass and baby bunnies, and baby birds.  But, it also brings allergies and unpredictable rainy weather, which I do not like.  

I know that winter brings beautiful pictures of snow, frost and ice and the death of mosquitoes and other bugs.   But, it also brings cold temperatures, which I do not like.

Today I say goodbye to summer and hello to fall, the two best seasons of all.

Goodbye days by the pool
Hello nights by the fire

Goodbye capris
Hello sweaters

Goodbye sandals and painted toes
Hello warm fuzzy socks

Goodbye fresh fruits and vegetables
Hello steamy pots of soup

Goodbye buzzing locusts
Hello chirping crickets

Goodbye blooming flowers
Hello crunchy leaves

Goodbye dinners on the grill
Hello dinners in the crockpot

Goodbye sunsets coming through the door
Hello sunsets coming through the dining room window

Goodbye summer
Hello fall!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Reflective Teaching Challenge - Setting Goals

This is my first year as a 6th grade language arts teacher, and I know I have much to learn as I make way into the middle school environment.  When I read that Teach Thought was hosting a blogging challenge for teachers who want to reflect, I immediately accepted the challenge.  Because reflection is such an important part of teaching, and since I was teaching a new grade level, I thought this challenge would be perfect for me.  Find more information here on how you can join other teachers for September Refections.

September 1 - Write your goals for the school year.

As teachers, we write goals for our students, our schools and ourselves.  This is vital for a reflective teacher.  For many teachers, writing and achieving goals is part of their evaluation.  Because of this, many people think that goals need to be measurable.  I don't think that is always the case.  I have several goals which are practices I want to start or changes I want to make.  These are not necessarily measurable, but are goals nonetheless.

* Create a global classroom - Through the use of Twitter, Skype, and Kidblog, I hope to increase our classroom presence globally.  Please check us out at @ExplorersCMS.

* Collaboration through the use of Google docs - This summer I participated in a book study using Google docs with teachers across the United States.  This was such a great learning experience for me, and now I want to bring this form of professional development and learning to my colleagues.  I also want to use Google docs as a collaboration tool for my students with their writing.

* Finding their voices - The majority of writing for our students is prompt writing, or practice for the standardized writing assessment.  I want my students to find their voices through many different types of writing and understand how to use that voice to make a difference in their world.

Being in a new grade level and a new school, I know I will have many learning experiences that will impact my goals.  I am sure these goals may change and evolve as we go, but for now, I have a vision and that is important for me.