Friday, January 30, 2015


It has been a tough week.  Tonight I am sitting by the fire, remembering why I became a teacher and wondering why people who have never taught in a classroom continue to make educational decisions.

Indiana teachers received the testing schedule for round one which will take place the first week of March.  After seeing this, my jaw hit the desk.

That week, our students will test for almost a total of seven hours.  Now here is the kicker, or should I say kickers.

Kicker #1 - Those seven hours are just the first round.  We still have the multiple choice portion in late April, and we have no idea how many hours the second one will be.

Kicker #2 - We have a practice test in a couple of weeks to prepare us for the real one.  We have new standards and a new test format, so I appreciate the fact that they are letting all students practice.  But, this test could take over four hours...for practice.  That puts us up to eleven hours of testing, almost three times as long as last year.

Kicker #3 - Politicians are wanting standardized testing to count more toward teacher evaluations.  Although I disagree with that policy, I disagree even more after looking at testing time distribution.

      Science or social studies testing time - 30 minutes
      Math testing time - 80 minutes
      ELA testing time - 4 hours and 50 minutes
I am a language arts teacher.  Can someone tell me how the criteria for my evaluation can even come close to being equal to those teachers teaching other subjects?  My students will spend almost an entire school day testing.  At what point do you think they will just give up and quit?

I know testing is the current educational culture, but when does someone finally stand up and say, enough is enough?

When do we stop teaching test takers and start teaching creative and enthusiastic learners?

When do educators, not politicians, get to make decisions on what we know is best for our students?

When do we get to be treated like the professionals we were trained to be?

When is enough really enough?

As disgruntled as I am tonight, I still love teaching.  I will walk in Monday morning with a smile on face, and I will continue to love my students and continue to give them my best.  That is what they deserve.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Reality of a Dream

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

Dreams fascinate me.  I often wonder what triggers them, especially when I wake up remembering one that is bazaar.  Three of my most common dreams involve teeth, tornadoes, and wrecks.

In my tornado dream, we survive one only to come out and look at the damage and get hit by a second one.  I am pretty confident that this dream is triggered by my fear of tornadoes.  These dreams usually start when tornado preparedness week is shown on TV.  Not a good time for me.

I had braces as an adult, and even at the age of 51, I still wear my retainers at night. When I was wearing the braces, I began dreaming that my teeth would fall out.  They would just crumble out of mouth.  My hygienist says this is common with people who wear braces, but it has continued for many years.

We live on a dead end street with a basketball goal at the end and a ditch on the left. I dream that cars come barreling down our street and either run into the basketball goal or drive down the ditch and through the neighbor's yard, similar to the Dukes of Hazzard.

One of these dreams came true this week.

No, I did not lose my teeth.

No, southern Indiana did not have a tornado last week.  We can't even get any snow!

Yes, we had someone miss the dead end sign and wreck in front of our house. Typically, if someone is coming down our street, they are going to someone's house and are driving pretty slow to turn into one of the driveways.  We just don't get much traffic.

It was Wednesday morning and my husband and son were standing in the living room waiting to leave, when a car came barreling down our street.  Although there is a big dead end sign at the corner where cars can turn, this young man obviously didn't see it.  He must have been flying because there are skid marks where he applied the brakes, just a few feet away from the goal.  Luckily for him, he avoided the basketball goal and ended up going right and hitting a tree.  All three kids were very lucky.

Now that this dream has became a reality, maybe I won't have it anymore.  I can only hope.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Power of a Word

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

Last year I had my 4th graders chose one little word, and they were excited about doing this project.  Since I moved to middle school this year, I wasn't sure if 6th graders would have the same enthusiasm.  But they did.  It helped that last week we had a speaker, Call Me Jim, on bullying and the power of our words.  Yes, words can hurt, but they can also be powerful when used in positive ways, such as the one little word.

We have been back to school for two weeks and yes, it took us that long to get our one little words chosen, decorated, and displayed.  But here they are!

I introduced the one little word to my homeroom upon our return to school.  I explained the concept and how sometimes the OLW actually finds them.  I challenged my homeroom to take a couple of days and think about what word they would like to guide them through this year.  

Due to weather delays and another schedule conflict, we finally finished Monday.  I had a few of the students explain why they chose the word and how they think it will guide them.

Her are some of their comments.

"I chose survive, because I just want to survive my first year of middle school."

"I chose unique because I don't want to be like anyone else.  I want to be my own person."

"I think I am a positive role model so I want to inspire little kids to be their best."

"I want to have faith in myself."

"My mom always picks the oldest to do things and I want her to know that I am dependable."

I emailed our school counselor the picture and she replied to ask if she could borrow the idea.  So, today on our Morning Show, which is produced by students and seen in all homerooms, she is having every homeroom choose a word and decorate and display them.

I can't wait to see what everyone chooses and see all of the words displayed on lockers and in classrooms.  

One little word is all it takes to make a difference.

Monday, January 19, 2015

You Matter

When we returned to school in January, we started a new homeroom for ten at-risk students.  They meet with a principal in the morning for homeroom, and at the end of the day, they meet with a teacher for a "study skills" class.  This is really a check-in and how was your day class.

Two days into the project I asked the teacher how it was going.  He said the first day he wrote "You" on the board and told them "You matter."  Two simple words which could have a huge impact for some of these kids.  He said one student completed his math homework three days in a row - a first for him.

I started thinking about my 100 students.  I have a good relationship with most of them, but there are some that I have not connected with in the way I would like.

What would happen if I chose ten students and really focused on building my relationship with them?  Would it make a difference?  If I zoned in on certain students, could I make that same connection that I have with other students?

I started looking for my ten, and it was very difficult to narrow my list.  I knew it had to be a short list because if not, I didn't think it would have much of an impact.  I wanted this to be an intense effort on my part to build those relationships.  I knew I had to make a difference.

Last week we had a speaker on bullying.  His name is Jim Williams, and he was the best speaker on this topic I have ever heard.  (And we have at least one a year.)  Kids were in tears thinking about how they had treated other students, and a line quickly formed to apologize to students.  His presentation touched them in ways I have never seen before.  Remember, these are middle school students.  You can read more about Call Me Jim here.

At the end of his presentation, Jim asked the kids to close their eyes in order to answer a series of questions honestly and confidentially.  He was serious about this, and kids knew they would be asked to leave if they peeked or if they goofed off.

Through the series of questions, my list was quickly narrowing.

He asked them other than your parents or family members, raise your hand if you know of someone who loves you.

There was my list.  The students sitting with their hands in their laps.

Jim went on to explain how love comes in many forms and whether they realized it or not, their teachers loved them.  He told them to take the time to form a relationship with them.  Stay after class and talk to them.  Smile and say hi when you arrive to class.

I now have my list, and I am thinking of ways I can TURN my attention toward them and help them see that yes, somebody other than a family member loves them.

This could be a difference maker for my year, and I can't wait to see what happens.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Sounds of Morning

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

This fall our daily routine changed dramatically.  My husband started a new job which was 40 minutes away and in another time zone.  We are a routine family - shower times coordinated, departure times were scheduled and dinner was on the table most nights at 5:15.  

Then the new job.

Our day now started at 5:30 with new coordinated shower schedules.  My husband was in the bathroom while I ate breakfast and then we switched.  The house was quiet, and the two of us went about our new routine in pretty much silence.  My husband took me to school, and we were out of the house usually by 6:15.  We no longer saw our children before we left.  This was the new routine and left an empty feeling in our hearts.  

Now the old job.

The first of the year a decision was made and our life took a turn.  My husband is no longer with that company, and our house is smiling again with the sounds of morning.  "Good morning" and "have a good day" are the bookends to our new routine.

The Sounds of Morning

alarm clocks ringing
teenagers moaning
parents smiling
showers running
hairdryers blowing
coffee brewing
bread toasting
cereal bowls clanging
lunch packing
cars running
doors opening

to a new day

Friday, January 9, 2015

Celebrate Turn #1

I am ever so grateful to Ruth Ayres for inviting us to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week. 

Last Tuesday I revealed my one little word for 2015 - TURN.  As I go through this year, I want to celebrate the turns in my life - the good, the bad, and the bumpy.  

I celebrate returning to school after a much needed Christmas break.  The best part about new grading periods is that all of the students get a new chance.  The students seemed excited about returning, and we are off to a great start.

I celebrate a life turn for my daughter Megan.  She began her student teaching this week.  She will have a dual license, special ed and general ed K-6.  Her first placement is in a resource room working with k-2 kids as well as a 5th grade student with Autism.  She has started to build a relationship with the 5th grader.  While working with him, he kept rubbing her watchband.  She was so excited to link what she learned about sensory learners to the actual classroom.  This is going to be so much fun!

Now, for my turn.  I have limited my Diet Coke consumption this week, and I can't believe how much better I feel.  I actually went two days with only drinking one, and most days just had one at lunch.  I have taken a healthier lunch to school and drank more water.  I still need to get that exercising started, but one day turn at a time.

Have a great week and may you find many celebrations along the way.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Nerdlution 2015

I have waited to make known my participation in Nerdlution 2015 for two reasons.

Reason (excuse) one - I can't start anything new on non-routine day.  January 1st I was still under the influence of Christmas Break.  We were still eating junk, staying up late, sleeping in and many other things which do not contribute to reaching goals.  Therefore, I waited until Monday when we were all in back-to-school mode and on a regular schedule.

Reason (excuse) two - I wanted to wait until I posted about my little word because it has everything and more to do with making a nerdlution.  Read more about my OLW here.
My one little word is TURN. My TURN to take better care of myself.  See, doesn't that just fit with this Nerdlution Revolution!

My nerdlution is simple.  Take a turn for me each and every day.  Some days that may be eating more fruits and vegetables, or exercising, or drinking more water, or writing, or reading, or whatever I choose.  
It is my TURN.
I think I can do this.  I need to do this.  I have to do this.

My One Little Word - It's My Turn

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

I have enjoyed reading the stories about people choosing their one little word and how the words found them.  I have a story too.  It is nothing profound or special, but it is mine.

My one little word sits quietly on a tripod, each leg representing a moment that whispered to me as I searched for my word.

The first "little word moment" happened when we were putting the ornaments on the Christmas tree.  I wrote a post about how hard it was this year because my children are becoming adults, and we are reaching a different stage of parenting.  I received so many comments from blogging friends who are on the other side of this life moment, telling me it was going to be OK.  Both of our kids are graduating this year, our daughter from college and our son from high school.  This is a turn in the road we knew would be here, but coming much too soon for our liking.

The second one happened at a family Christmas gathering.  I started experiencing some heart palpitations.  I have had these before so I wasn't overly concerned.  But I started thinking, "What if it is different this time?  What if this really is something?"  I knew my little word was whispering to me.  I just didn't know what it was saying just yet.

You see, I am a doer.  I always have been, and probably always will be.  It is how I am wired.  If I had a DNA test done, I am sure somewhere in the report I would have a "doer" chromosome.  But this Christmas I realized that doing for others hasn't always the best thing for me.  Doing for others and neglecting myself has taken its toll on me both physically and emotionally.

With all the many "people" I have to be, I stopped taking care of me.  I stopped doing things for me.  I stopped being me.  I know to some, this may sound selfish.  But I can't be all those other people if I lose sight of who I am, who I want to be.

This leads me to the third leg of my tripod holding my one little word.  Being a mom, a wife, a sister, a teacher and doing all of these things for others have been very rewarding.  But I have been missing something.  I think many one little words lend themselves to the spiritual side.  Mine does too.

Holly Mueller started Spiritual Journey Thursdays on her blog.  I was hesitant to participate for many personal reasons.  The main one was because I wanted a different place and space for my journey to reside.  I knew I needed to somehow connect God with my writing, my heart, and this new community, but I didn't want to mix it with my teaching blog.  So, I started a new blog.  Please visit me at Turn to read more about this leg of the tripod.

I knew these three events were significant in my search, but trying to find a commonality and to understand how to connect them with one little word was not easy.  One day I was on Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience, and reading the post The Best Way to do the Christmas Cleaning and there it was - my word.

She was writing about When I read her words, "How when you are turned away from God, life turns ugly, but when you are turned toward God, life turns lovely." I knew had found it.

This year will be filled with new TURNs in this messy thing we call life.  

This year it is "my TURN" - a time just for me.

This year I will TURN toward God to help me accept the TURNs that life sends my way .

I leave you with the lyrics and video of the song "It's My Turn" by Diana Ross.  Although this is considered a love song, I believe there are some powerful lines.  I know I will never stop "doing," but this is my theme song for 2105.  I hope all of you find some time to take your turn in 2015.  We deserve it.

"It's My Turn"
I can't cover up my feelings
In the name of love
Or play it safe
For a while that was easy
And if living for myself
Is what I'm guilty of
Go on and sentence me
I'll still be free

It's my turn
To see what I can see
I hope you'll understand
This time's just for me

Because it's my turn
With no apologies
I've given up the truth
To those I've tried to please

But now it's my turn
If I don't have all the answers
At least I know
I'll take my share of chances
Ain't no use in holding on
When nothing stays the same

So I'll let it rain
'Cause the rain ain't gonna hurt me
And I'll let you go
'Though I know it won't be easy

It's my turn
With no more room for lies
For years I've seen my life
Through someone else's eyes

And now it's my turn
To try and find my way
And if I should get lost
At least I'll own today

It's my turn
Yes, it's my turn
And there ain't no use in holding on
When nothing stays the same

So I'll let it rain
'Cause the rain ain't gonna hurt me
And I'll let you go
'Though I know it won't be easy

It's my turn
To see what I can see
I hope you'll understand
This time's just for me

Because it's my turn
To turn and say goodbye
I sure would like to know
That you're still on my side

Because it's my turn
It's my turn

It's my turn
To start from number one
Trying to undo
Some damage that's been done

But now it's my turn
To reach and touch the sky
No one's gonna say
At least I didn't try

It's my turn
Yes, it's my turn
It's my turn
It's my turn
It's my turn

Monday, January 5, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/5

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

Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin

Have you ever finished a book and thought, "Oh I wish I had read this sooner?"  That is how I felt after reading Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin.  I bought this book last summer and so many other recommended books kept pushing it down in my To Be Read pile.  This book deserves to be moved up, read, and praised.

Although this book is a fantasy, the characters Little John and Gayle bring you into their lives and create a believable story.  It is a story of grief and sadness, love and hope, growing up and the magic of song.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

We will be reading this novel as part of our civil rights when we return to school this week.  Although this book has been around awhile, I had not read it before.  The story takes place in 1963, but sadly, parts of the book could have been written today.  I honestly don't know how much our world has really changed.  

Books on deck for this week:

This book is the January selection for the Virtual Book Club.  Click here for more information on the Twitter chat as well as a list of the books featured for 2015.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! - #1

I am ever so grateful to Ruth Ayres for inviting us to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week.  

It has been almost a month since I have written a celebration post.  I hope to change that in 2015 because celebrating the small things is such a big thing.  After I reveal my one little word on Slice of Life Tuesday, my celebrations will take a slightly different turn.

But for today, I celebrate my grandma.  My grandma is 90 years old and has lived a hard life.  She has been divorced, raised six children on her own, and lost her youngest just a few years ago to cancer.  But my grandma is a trouper and I love "Granny-ma" dearly.  

My grandma also has dementia and with each passing day, a little of her memory is being taken away.  I celebrate her and the Christmas we spent together as a family.  Looking ahead, I know in my heart it was a special one.

I also celebrate returning to school for a new semester.  I love new beginnings and there are so many things I want to do and change this second part of the year.  My daughter Megan will begin her student teaching on Monday too!  The anticipation of the return is building and I am excited for both of us.

Happy New Year everyone and may your year be filled with many celebrations!

Friday, January 2, 2015

I Just Can't Let It Go

I am two days into letting go of my one little word for 2014, and I just can't.  I feel like I should be singing "Let it go.  Let it go."

I started blogging for me.  I still write for me, but I am always touched when my words inspire or leave an impact on someone else.  One never knows how or when our words will REACH others.

Today while I was spending way too much time on Twitter, I found that two of my posts inspired two bloggers to choose a one little word for 2015 for the first time.  You can read Michelle's story at Mrs. Simpson's Reading Connections and Sara's at Memoirs from the Belly.

Our words matter.  Our words REACH others when we least expect it.

Two days ago I saw tweet to Anna at Two Writing Teachers from Marcie.  Now, I had just started following Marcie and really knew nothing about her.  In this tweet, she wanted to know more about the Slice of Life community and what she needed to do to get started.

Now, I know the tweet wasn't to me but I REACHED out...OK I really butted in...and tweeted her back.  I told her to just jump in.  After several tweets back and forth, she now has a blog and has written her first post at One School Day At A Time.  Please REACH out to her and welcome her to the blogging world while I start singing...Let it go....

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Must Read in 2015

It is that time of year for reflecting on what was read in 2014 and rounding up those books that we didn't read because we ran out of time.  I am joining Carrie Gelson of There's A Book For That and many other bloggers to create my Must Read in 2015 List.  I do not include 2015 books in this list because I know I will read those anyway. My list contains book that I wanted to read in 2014 but just did not get to.

My list this year will consist of groups of books.  The first one is Newbery contenders that I own.  I still want to read these although I think I have already read the winner!

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel Read 12/31
Nightingale's Nest by Mikki Loftin  Read 1/2
Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Revolution by Deborah Wiles Read 6/15
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

My next group is the books which are featured on the Virtual Book Club 2015, which are NOT 2015 books and which I have not read.  Click here for a list of the books featured for 2015.

How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied by Jess Keating  Read 2/3
El Deafo by Cece Bell  Read 2/1

My last group is the series that my students are reading, but I have not.  Since I was previously a 4th grade teacher, I did not own this series until this year.  I do not expect read all of these.  I just want to at least start them.

The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen Finished series 3/3
The Maze Runner by James Dashner Read 12/26
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Read first book 6/30

Happy Reading in 2015!