Saturday, May 30, 2015

Celebrate Turn #16

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

This week I celebrate accomplishments!

Last weekend I celebrated my second graduation in three weeks.  

My daughter graduated the first of May from our local university, and my son graduated from high school last week.  It is hard to believe we have reached this turn in our lives.  

Looking ahead, Megan was hired as the freshman basketball coach and had her first interview last Thursday.  Ethan signs up for classes from our local university in just a few weeks. I am proud of what they have accomplished as young adults, and look forward to what lies ahead.

This week I am also teaching a reading camp for struggling readers.  After teaching 6th graders this year, it has been fun spending time with 2nd graders again. Our accomplishment for the first four days - they all correctly spelled the word "very" in their writing - this has been a struggle.

Summer has arrived and there are so many things I want to accomplish - books to read, conferences to attend, words to write, units to plan, weight to lose.  

So summer, just go slow please, because I have much to do!

Have a great week and may you have many celebrations along the way!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Every Moment Matters

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

Since our commencement ceremony last Friday, I have been in the reflective mode.  Here is my post yesterday about "seeing greatness."  Today I am reflecting upon the words spoken from the teacher of the year during his speech:

"Every moment matters.  
Every moment has led up to where you are today."

I have heard many times, 

"You matter"

"Words matter"

"Stories matter"

"All reading matters"

But "every moment matters"

Hearing these words led to more reflection about my teaching this year.  Have I done enough?  Have I reached certain students?  Have I made every moment matter?  

On the last day school before I handed a particular student his report card, I looked him the eyes and said, "If you had worked as hard all year as you did these last three weeks, this piece of paper would look much different."  

He decided he would give me his best...the last three weeks of school.  He showed me he could think critically, write in complete sentences, and give me his best effort.  But it was a little too late.  Did I make every moment matter?  Could I have done more to motivate this student?  

We had several students suspended the last several days of school because of behavior. Did I make every moment matter?  Did I give them the tools they needed to change their behavior?  Could I have done more to keep them on the right track?

Many more incidents come to mind, and I could easily see these situations as failures.  Instead, I choose to see them as ways to reflect and improve my teaching.

Every moment of a school year leads up to the day my students leave my classroom.  I think I will always question my practices, my decisions, and my instruction.  I think that is what good teachers do.

But I know these students are the ones I will think about all summer and wonder, did I make every moment matter?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Seeing Greatness

My first class of students graduated Friday night.  Last week I attended the awards ceremony and listened carefully as names of my former students were called to be recognized as outstanding students, scholarship recipients, and special award winners.  Every class has students who excel in the classroom.  There are also students who achieve greatness, but in ways which many people do not pay much attention to this time of year.  Sitting in the auditorium Friday night made me realize that greatness is not the awards and scholarships or what many people perceive, but greatness is how they see themselves.

I watched a special needs student accept his diploma.  He is fighting a much bigger battle than his cognitive disability.  He is fighting for his life while sadly losing a battle with cancer.  I hope he sees his greatness.

I watched a young soon-to-be mother cradle her stomach as she smiled for her picture.  She went through a terrible tragedy her junior year, but she finished school and made getting an education a priority for her and her unborn child.  I hope she sees her greatness.

I watched a young man raise his hands in the air in celebration.  He chose a wrong path - a path of drugs and alcohol which ultimately cost him a relationship with his family.  I hope he sees his greatness.

None of these students were at the top of their class.  But they achieved a greatness of their own.  And that greatness deserves to be recognized too.  I congratulate all of my former students and leave them with this:

"Greatness lies not in what people perceive, 
but in what you, yourself believe." ~Leigh Anne Eck

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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.

This is my last week of school, so my world has been a little crazy.  I did mange to get two books read along with 100 essays...but I guess that doesn't count!

What I Read this Week

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

Cynthia Lord writes another touching middle grade novel about a friendship between Lily, a girl from a small-town in Maine, and Salma, a migrant worker.

I come from a small Indiana town which welcomes many migrant workers during the summer and early fall.  I think my students will love the lessons about true friendship and finding a place in which to belong.

In the Best Interest of Students - Staying True to What 
Works in the ELA Classroom by Kelly Gallagher

Last summer I had the privilege to hear Kelly Gallagher speak at the All Write conference in Warsaw, Indiana.  I was so excited to return to school and start some of the ideas I learned.

This book picked up where that conference left off. He explains the strengths and weaknesses of the CCSS and reminds teachers what they need to do in their classroom which is in the best interest of students.  

As I was reading the book, I immediately went back to school and had my students start a writing activity that he discussed.  So his ideas are ones that can be implemented - today!  If you teach ELA in grades 6 - 12, I strongly encourage you to add this to your PD summer read list.  I don't think you will be disappointed.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Celebrate Turn #15

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

Today I celebrate chaos.

I have five more school days left before summer break.  With that comes all of the end-of-the-year messiness.  You know what I am talking about - essays to grade, report cards, awards, end-of-the-year assessments and reports, inventories, tasks that need to be finalized or planned for the beginning of next year.  Add to that the craziness of middle school students and I am living in chaos.

I also have a high school graduation to plan.  My son graduates next Friday night.  I think I am ready mentally, but I know I am not ready physically.  I still have a house to clean and last minute arrangements to finish.  This coming week, I know, will be chaotic.

But through the chaos comes celebration. 


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

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


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

A year ago this week was when I began thinking about not only changing grade levels, but also changing schools.  Although it was not an easy decision, the biggest enticement for me was teaching language arts and sharing my passion for reading and writing to four times as many students.  How much better could it get, right?

Well, little did I know exactly what kind of a challenge motivating middle school students to read would be.

I quickly found out that middle school students not only do not have as much time to read, but many do not even like to read.  I think many felt it was not "cool" to read, and image is everything to this age group.  I set out to change that.

I would give book talks and have them tweet about books.  I even exposed my reading life on my classroom door.  But I still could not spark that passion.  I was usually pretty successful at motivating my 4th grade students to read, and I became frustrated by my lack of success.  I was pretty confident I could change that, but I knew it would take the right book.

Finally...after almost an entire year has passed, I found the book that has ignited reading in my classroom.  Our social studies teacher came down the other day with the book in his hands and asked, "What is the deal with this book?  Everyone is reading it!"

I smiled and replied, "I know!  Isn't it great?"

The book is Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman, and it is about social media and the implications of making a poor decision.  I had to order three additional copies, making it a total of five, and I still don't have enough to fulfill the demand.  I even have several students who bought the book and are sharing them with students as well.

This book is timely.  This book is relevant to middle school students.  This book was what my students were looking for....finally!  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Childhood Scars - A Zip Ode

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

Although poetry month is officially over, I still want to remain in the poetry playground.  I am teaching a poetry session this summer during an academic camp we have for our high ability students.  I still need to write poems to use as mentor texts.  Tara and Michelle both had zip odes on their blogs, and I knew this was one I wanted to try.  

A zip ode is a five line poem and each line is a number in the zip code.  My zip code is 47591.  Here is my attempt.

Head under her pillow
A stream of tears saturates her dreams.
Knowing her childhood is scarred,
She prays their loud voices will stop, and wonders

Monday, May 4, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/4

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.

It has been such a long time since I have written a IMWAYR post.  I need to start making this a habit.

Last week I finished up the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen.  I read all three books in less than a month, but I don't know what took me so long to get started!

These three books take the reader on a journey filled with adventure, danger, trickery and even love.  The plot is full of unexpected twists and turns and by the end, comes full circle.  Jennifer Nielsen is a masterful storyteller.

I typically am not a fan of fantasy, but I absolutely devoured The False Prince.  Then, I couldn't wait to read the other two.  One good thing about reading an entire series after they are published, is that I don't have to wait for the next one to come out.  I loved this trilogy and have already started recommending it to my students.

This week on my reading radar:

Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Celebrate Turn #14

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

When I picked my one little word for 2015, I knew this TURN was coming.   

Yesterday was my daughter's college graduation ceremony.  It is hard to believe this time has come.  Where have the years gone?  It seems like yesterday we brought her home from the hospital, our fingers wrapped in her tiny little hands.  Today we watched those same hands turn her tassel.  

Megan will be a third generation teacher.  I think I have always known she would choose teaching as a career because she has that passion for learning and working with children that cannot be taught.  I truly believe she was born to teach.  

During the invocation, the pastor told the graduates, "you are standing at the edge of possibility."  What powerful words.  My daughter's world is about to turn, and I can't wait to see where it goes

Life is full of turns.  
Life is full of celebrations.
Let us remember to celebrate each one.