Saturday, October 31, 2015

Celebrate Turn #29

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week.

Have you ever one of those weeks where everything just seemed to fall into place and go better than expected?  That has been my week.  Many celebrations!

1.  We started a research unit and I taught new lessons for the first time.  They just flowed perfectly, the students were engaged, and we are ready to research.  

2.  I wrote my 300th post this week.  When I began blogging back in the summer of 2013, I had no idea where it would take me and how it would change me.  Thank you to all of my writing community for sticking with me and encouraging me.  A special thank you to Ruth who inspires me to be a better writer.

3.  Every day I get to share my love of reading and writing to 100 students and be around people who just make me laugh.  I end my day grateful that I am able to wake up and do it all again the next day.

4.  I have another life turn coming my way in the next couple of weeks.  It was actually more of a detour, but sometimes it is on those detours when we realize just how lucky we are.

5.  Next Saturday I will be presenting at Indiana State University's Educator's Day along with two other teachers in my district.  This is my first opportunity to work with these two amazing teachers, and it has been a wonderful experience to get to know them and to realize how like-minded we are.  I hope to share more about "Leaving a Reading Legacy in a Culture of Testing" soon.

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Proud Teacher Moment

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 week I had a proud teacher moment.  No, it wasn't a brilliant lesson I planned or taught.  No, it wasn't a wonderful assessment that all my students passed.  No, it didn't even happen in my classroom.

It was a single moment.

I stand outside the convenience store talking to my sister on my cellphone because I don't like talking on it in public.  I hang up, go inside, and fill my cup with ice.  As I stand there at the soda fountain, I feel a tap, tap on my shoulder.  I look up and see a nice looking young man standing there.

"You probably don't remember me," he says.

I think, oh this is a former student.  Please, oh please memory, don't fail me now.  As I look at him, he twitches his nose and I reply.  "Of course I remember you Avery!"  (Luckily the nose twitching gave it away.)

Knowing that he was in my very first class, he should have graduated last spring.  "So, what are you doing?  You graduated, right?"

"Yea, I am going to VU for welding and I am a mechanic at Westport Auto."

"That is great!"

"I also have a daughter who is a year old now."

"Do you have a picture?"

He whips out his phone and shows me his beautiful little girl.  

"She is adorable.  What is her name?"

"Ava.  And here is my fiancĂ©.  I thought that was you standing out there on your phone.  I wanted to wait until you got off the phone before I said anything to you."

I hug him and say,  "Avery, I am so proud of how you got your life together.  You have a beautiful family and a wonderful career ahead of you.  I am so glad you said something to me."

Avery was a student in my first class.  After 5th grade, he moved to the county school, and I hadn't seen him until that night.  Avery was also one of those students who I worried about. Who I wanted to take home and just show him what a family looked like and how it felt to be loved unconditionally.  

I know he didn't have to stop and say hello.  But he did.  

It was a single moment this teacher won't soon forget.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Words Matter

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

As bloggers and writers, we understand the power of words.  It is serendipitous that I am writing this post on NCTE's National Day of Writing when many are thinking about the power of words.

We know that words heal and words hurt.

They make us laugh and make us cry.

They move us forward yet keep us marking time.

They can hold us hostage, and they can set us free.

Words matter.

Last week I was going through some old emails and came across one that was sent to me two years ago by a former colleague.  I thought about deleting it then and have considered deleting it many times since.  But for some reason, I haven't.

When I received the email two years ago, I was confused because these words were not typical of the person who sent them.  I respected her as a colleague and as my own children's teacher, so I did not understand and wanted some answers.

The next day I walked down to her classroom.

I left in tears.

The words hurt.
Words matter.

I wanted to believe she didn't really mean the words she said to me that day.  She was going through a rough time professionally.  Sadly, she was hurting as many veteran teachers do in their last years of teaching.  I seemed to inadvertently be the cause of the pain, as many new teachers are.

I wanted to believe those words were coming from the pain inside, not from her heart.  But the year ended, she retired, and I moved schools.  Our words became silent.

Words matter.

Ironically, I ran into her last week.  The silence was broken, and we both said words I wished we would have said a long time ago.

I came home and deleted the email.  The one I should have deleted a long time ago.

Yes, words matter.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Celebrate Turn #28

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week.

This week we were on fall break, so we headed south to Tennessee to my sister's house.  It was a girls' weekend with my two sisters and my daughter.  Three of us are teachers, so it was rejuvenating to get away and not think about things we needed to do, but things we wanted to do.

We ate.
We shopped.
We laughed.
We watched a movie.
We stayed up late.
We slept in.
We sang.
We danced...well some of them did.
We laughed some more.
We took a selfie.
We did what we wanted to do.

And it was something to celebrate!

Here we are trying out the selfie stick - daughter, older sister,
younger sister, and me!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

To Live Forever - A Reflection on Tuck Everlasting

My students just finished reading Tuck Everlasting during our unit on "Making Choices." They were asked if they would want to live forever and, of course, we wrote about it.

I have been playing with an idea for the Slice of Life March Challenge where I write for 31 days using only 31 words in a slice.  It has been challenging, but it certainly focuses on word choice.   This makes an interesting twist on writing about reading.

Here is my reflection on if I would want to live 31 words.

I would not chose
to live forever,
but instead,
to live
to love
to die,
each one
dependent on the other,
each one its own spoke 
on the wheel of life.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Transformative Power of Reading

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

Each week my students read an Article of the Week (AoW), an idea I borrowed from Kelly Gallagher.  When I choose the articles, I try to find something I think will interest them.  So, when I found an article about how reading changed a presidential candidate's life, I was a little skeptical. Boy, was I wrong.  My students responded to this article in ways I never imagined.

The article is an interview of Dr. Ben Carson by a man named Michael Hyatt.  He talks about how Dr. Carson grew up in poverty in Detroit, Michigan and was raised by a single mom.  But the one thing that turned his life around was reading.  His mother noticed that wealthy people read a lot of books and avoided watching too much television.  So she turned off the tv and made them read, which ended up changing his life.

I have five classes of 6th graders.  In one class, several students have IEP's; some need additional support with reading;  some have behavior problems, and almost all of them do not like to read.  I was overwhelmed with emotion by how they connected with this article.  I think many of them saw themselves in Dr. Carson's early life because they come from poverty and broken homes, and many are at the "bottom of the class" - right where Dr. Carson was.  By reading this article, they realized their life situations could change, but they have to make choices which will affect them in a positive way - like choosing to read and to become educated.

I would love to share all the comments by my students, but they were too numerous to write in a blog post.  Here are a few of their thoughts after reading the author's last line in the article:

"I've always believed in the transformative power of reading, especially in books.  Dr. Carson is a living example of why."

When I read this I was in a different world.  I can't believe reading did that to him!

Well, knowledge is powerful.

I bet Mrs. Eck likes that guy. 
(This one made me laugh out loud.)

Reading can be powerful.

That is a good thing to believe in.

He sets a very good example for kids, and honestly, I think that everyone should read this.

THIS is why you read.

One of my students told me a couple of weeks ago, that he started reading because of me.  He said, "Mrs. Eck, you know, you got me reading.  I didn't like reading before this year."  He now enjoys reading and sees the pleasure in it.  He knows reading has changed him and now he knows how powerful reading can be in his life.

Here are comments he wrote on his article.

Whatever your political affiliations or beliefs are, I encourage you to put those aside, read this article and share it with your students.  I think you will see just how powerful this story is.

Click here to read the entire article.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Celebrate Turn #27

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week.

Today, I celebrate a glimpse into my school year.

It is hard to believe that October is here, and we are in our last week of the first grading period.  The sad part is that I have been so wrapped up in my home life, that I have not celebrated my school year since our first week of school.  And there has been so much to celebrate.

The first week of August Kate Roberts, the co-author of Falling in Love with Close Reading, tweeted asking for teachers who had already started school.  I tweeted back, and she wanted to know if I was interested in piloting a few lessons for her new book.  After several emails back and forth and picking my confidence up off the floor, (I mean, this is Kate Roberts for crying out loud!) I taught the lesson and submitted photos of our work, including student writing.  I have seen the "unedited-rough-draft-email-version" of the our pages and my kids (along with their teacher) are so excited about it.  Not sure when the book is to be published, but I will certainly be writing more about it!

My 100 students have read almost 400 books so far this year.  It has been so much fun talking about books and sharing books with them.  When I decided to change grade levels, I knew this was my dream job, and they are certainly making this teacher's dream come true.

Last week I wrote a post about a former student who I had the privilege of teaching for two years.  I received an ineffective on my evaluation the first year because of his behavior in my classroom.  But he has come such a long way.  After I showed him the post, he got teary-eyed.  I later learned that while he was in study hall, he Googled my blog and found it.  He left me a comment and then I got teary-eyed!  You can read the post here if you would like.  He makes me proud to be a teacher (although his grammar still needs some work!)

So this is a quick glimpse into my school year.  Writing is slowly making a much needed entrance back into my life, and I hope to continue sharing it with you.

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