Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Listen, Just Listen

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

Our state testing scores will soon be released to the public.  Yes, it has been almost eight months since we took the tests, and many school systems and districts are up in arms and voicing their concerns over the results.  Many are not happy; fingers are being pointed and blame is being spread.

Yesterday a conversation I had with a teacher put all of this in perspective for me.  

I know a teacher 
who has a troubled a student.

I bet you know one too.

This troubled student
has a story to tell.

They all have a story to tell.

We just need to take the time
to listen,
just listen.

this student was sick,
and somber;
she wasn't herself.

The teacher asked her
to eat lunch with her
in the classroom.

She did.
They shared their lunch
and watched a cartoon.
The student told her story.

The teacher listened,
just listened.

She told the teacher 
about her family.

I bet you have heard this story too.

"Dad has been in jail...
he drinks alcohol...
step-mom was arrested last night..."

...and the story went on.

And the teacher listened,
just listened.

The teacher asked,
"Why did you tell me all of this?"

The student replied,
"You're my teacher.
I trust you."

Test scores now seem so...insignificant.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Can We Talk?

This week I submitted my first Donors Choose project - Can We Talk?.   I have heard of so many teachers talk about the "wonderfulness" of this organization, and I thought it was time for me to give it try.  Here is a little bit about it.

About the Project

Reading is a social activity, and I want my students to be able to participate in book clubs in order to talk about their reading experiences.  We have many sets of books, but they are old and yellowed and just do not appeal to my students' reading preferences.

I have tried to find a mix of genres, reading levels, and interest levels.  I am asking for multiple copies of the following books:

This is just a start, but hopefully I will find some generous donors to fund this project and continue to build my book club sets.  My goal is to have enough sets of books for each one of my 100+ students to take home and enjoy participating in our book clubs and talking about their reading experiences.  After all, isn't that what reading is all about?

More About My Project

Here is a link to take you to my project if you would like to learn more.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Celebrate Turn #31

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week.  Please join us and celebrate your week!

Today I celebrate passion.

Two weeks ago, I gave a presentation with two colleagues from my school district at an educators conference at Indiana State University.  It is such a great feeling to share my passion for reading with other educators.  Here is a link to the news coverage of the event which also features our session. 

Our session stressed the importance of independent reading when much focus seems to be on testing.  Independent reading is something we just cannot afford to give up during our day.

This week we received a letter from one of the organizers of the event thanking us and giving us feedback from the evaluations.  At the very end of the letter, he included a P.S. which I almost missed. 

P.S. After taking into consideration the quantity of evaluations, it is clear that your presentation was one of (if not THE) highest rated at the conference. Congrats…and thank you :-)

It is rewarding to know that our message and our passion resonated with other educators.  After our presentation I was asked by another teacher in our district about writing a newsletter with reading and writing teaching tips.  As I consider approaching our curriculum department about writing this, I have decided to try some things out as blog posts first.  Who knows what will become of this, but sharing my passion is always something I enjoy.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

And It Finally Happened

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

When my daughter was growing up, she lived and breathed basketball.  For that matter, she still lives and breathes basketball.  Megan began attending high school games with me when she was 3 or 4 years old because my sister coached.  We would leave dad and little brother at home, and that would be our "girls night out."

When she was in elementary school, her principal was the announcer for the high school team.  She couldn't wait for Mr. Hackney to announce her name in the starting lineup.  He had that enthusiastic announcer voice that creates an exciting atmosphere.

But that never happened.

By the time she played high school ball, a new announcer was hired.  It just wasn't the same. Her senior year I toyed with the idea of asking him to return to announce for her senior night.

But that never happened.

I decided against it, and it is a decision I have regretted...until last week.

Megan is now part of the high school coaching staff, and her former principal is the announcer once again.  She sits on the sidelines while my sister and I now watch her.  Another TURN in life.

Last Saturday night I sat in the gym listening to him announce the teams' starting line-ups for this season's first home game.  At the end of the line-up, he announced the coaching staff, and I finally heard him say those words...Megan Eck.

No, it wasn't with as much enthusiasm as a starting line-up or when she would hit a three pointer.  But, nonetheless, it was a goose bump moment for me.

It finally happened.

Monday, November 9, 2015

This is Why We Teach

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

That first year of teaching.  I am sure many of you remember it well, and some of you may have tried to forget.  My daughter is currently living it.  I have not written much about her lately because it has been hard.

It has been hard to see her struggle.  It has been hard to see her frustrated.  It has been hard to see her doubt.

Megan's third grade class is one that stretches a teacher thin, especially a new teacher.  She has one particular student who is especially challenging.  Megan has spent much time and energy putting interventions into place in order to help "J" function in a classroom.  Megan has a special education license too, and she certainly has a heart for these students.

Megan comes from a home with two parents who love each other and love her.  She comes from a home with boundaries and rules.  She comes from a home that values and demands respect.  She comes from a home filled with laughter and good memories.

Many of her students do not.  Students like "J."  

A few weeks ago, Megan came home after a trying day with "J" and said, "Mom, she just wants to be loved."

I replied, "And that is why you need to find it in your heart to love her every single day, no matter how difficult it may be."

Friday, Megan shared with me a letter written by "J." 

My original post had a picture of the letter, but I have chosen to take that out.  This letter was written to Megan, and I want to keep it private.  But I do want to share some lines because they are reminders of why we do what we do.  And I know Megan is hanging on to these precious words to help her get through this first year.

You Are the Best of All

This is why I love you. 

And I never want to leave you because you care and love me.  

I know I'm bad but it does not make me hate you. 

Because you never give up on me and I know you never will.  

You are in the middle of my heart. 

This is why we teach.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Value of Reading

Sometime during the last six months, I heard Donalyn Miller either speak or tweet these words.  (Actually, it was probably both!)

"All readers are valued and all reading is valuable."

These words have become my motto, my mantra and the first thing anyone sees when they walk in my classroom.  I now live and breathe these words.

Because I do live these words, I have become very attuned to situations when this is not the case.  Anyone who regularly reads my blog, knows that I do not like Accelerated Reading (AR).  I will not deny it, nor will I apologize for it.  I believe many other options exist for student motivation which are much better than AR, and I love to talk about them.  (I just presented this topic today to a group of teachers at a conference.)  I think teachers need to be aware of these options because for many teachers, AR is all they have ever known about motivating readers.  I do not fault them for this, but I do want them to think about something.

We have just finished our first grading period, which means it is time to honor readers.

But not necessarily all readers.

I have recently seen Facebook posts and tweets with those students who had the most points for the grading period.  (AR awards points for those students who choose to take tests after reading a book.)  

Again, because I live by Donalyn's words, I noticed something about the lists and the tweets and the announcements.  They were all upper grade students.

Well, of course they were.  They are the ones who can read the books with all the points.  But what about those kindergartners and first graders who are just beginning to read?  Or those second and third graders who are finding their way into chapter books?  They will never be able to obtain the same number of points in a grading period as those fourth and fifth graders.

But is their reading not valuable?  Are they not valued readers too?

Something to think about...

Friday, November 6, 2015

Celebrate Turn #30

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week.  Please join us and celebrate your week!

Today, I celebrate collaboration.

I am actually posting this celebration on Friday night because I am leaving in the morning to present at a conference at Indiana State University.  

Two months ago I received an email regarding proposals for this conference.  I have only presented a PD for our own district, and the thought of presenting at a bigger venue excited me.  Although I was intrigued by the idea, I knew I did not want to do this by myself.  So...

The search began.  

I knew what I wanted to present, so I knew I needed to find a teacher who had similar beliefs. 

The search continued.

I knew I needed to find a teacher who was passionate about reading.

The search continued.

I knew I needed to find a teacher who loved professional development.

The search continued.

Soon after I received the proposal email, I moderated our district's second Twitter chat.  One teacher "showed up."

The search ended.

Although I knew of this teacher, I can't say that I actually knew her well.  We taught at different schools and taught different levels.  (She lives in that scary world of kindergarten!)  I had no idea how she felt about reading, but I was willing to take a chance.  That night after the chat, I messaged her and asked if she would be interested in presenting with me.  The next thing I knew she said yes and "volunteered" one her colleagues, and we were submitting a proposal.

The three of us have worked together this past month trying to contain our passion in an hour long presentation.  It has been a wonderful experience getting to know them, sharing ideas, and collaborating.  This is a TURN I was not expecting, but one that is stretching me professionally.  I am so thankful they said yes, and have had the opportunity to work with both of them.

Next week I hope to be celebrating our presentation.

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My Ideal Life

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 week I discovered a new website from Jen Vincent from Teach Mentor Texts, called Story Exploratory.  This website is a place to "find out how to discover the story inside of you!"

In one of the posts Jen reflects on her ideal life and finished this statement:  My life is ideal when...  She states, "I found that my life is most ideal when I'm spending time with my family, when I'm reading, when I'm writing, and when I'm taking care of myself by exercising, eating healthy, and spending time with my friends." 

She concluded that taking care of herself and her family was the most important part of her ideal life, but realized that she was spending a lot of time working. I know she has small children, and I am sure at many times, she feels that "mother guilt" that we feel when we do not always put our families first. She knew she had to make some changes to live that ideal life.

As I was reading this, I realized how my "ideal life" has changed. I didn't have to make changes; the changes were made for me.

I gave up my first career to stay at home with my two children. At that time, my ideal life was when I let the dirty dishes sit because I was playing outside or watching Barnie, when I read bedtime stories, when I got goodnight kisses, when I made homemade chocolate chip cookies and when we played in the wading pool in the backyard.  

That was my ideal life, and I do not regret one single day of staying home with them.

Now, my two children are almost adults, and I find that I have more time to put into my career. I will admit that when I first read Jen's post, I felt that guilt resurface.  I asked myself, Am I putting too much time into my career? Am I wrong for doing this? Am I neglecting myself and my family?

But now I realize the dynamics of my ideal life has changed. My family has different needs.  I have time to do some things just for me.

Now it is my TURN...which happens to be my one little word for 2015. I have several professional goals that I want to achieve, and at my age, I know I do not have as many years as most teachers in which to accomplish those goals.

I think our ideal life changes as our life takes TURNS.  Guilt should not be a product of those changes.

Right now, on this very day, my ideal life is when I'm cooking meals and cherishing the time to eat together, when I am handing out a couple of dollars here and there, when I'm doing laundry, when I am listening to their problems, and when I am going to bed knowing they are both safe at home.  

But it is also when I'm sharing my reading life with my students, when I'm writing my story, when I'm attending PD to become a better teacher, and when I'm setting and trying to achieve my own professional goals.

My ideal life may be different tomorrow or next year, but for right now, guilt is not a part of my today.