Friday, December 29, 2017

Celebrating A Tribute to Ruth

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share the celebrations from our week. I began 2017 celebrating those people who have inspired my writing life.  One of my beliefs for this year was that we RISE when we lift others.  My goal was to lift a person each month.  Sadly, this didn't happen, but you can read my other tribute posts here:

A Writing Gift - A Tribute to Fran
Found Poetry - A Tribute to Terje
The Beginning - A Tribute to Katherine 
Cherishment - A Tribute to Margaret

I want to end the year with a final tribute.  I have waited to write this post because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to capture everything I wanted to say.  I wouldn't be able to get it right.  And I want it to be right because this person has helped me to RISE as a writer, a teacher, and a person. (And yes, I still think it falls short.)

Today I celebrate my friend, Ruth Ayres.

I remember the first time I met Ruth face to face.  It was my first time at the All Write Conference.  I had known Ruth through blogging for almost a year and was looking forward to meeting her.  I walked into the lobby of the hotel and there she was with a a group of fellow bloggers.  She recognized me and came over to hug me. 

What I remember most about that time was how welcoming and down-to-earth Ruth was.  She included me in conversations, in time by the pool, and in lots of laughter.  I quickly learned, that is just Ruth.

In time, I realized that Ruth began influencing my life beyond my blog, and I began a far-away friendship with her.  

As the school year started, I would come from conferences with students from hard places.  My heart would ache for them and the life they were living.  I remember saying to my team, "Every child from a hard place needs a Ruth."  

During my daughter's first year of teaching, I didn't think she was going to make it through the first few months.  I sent a message to Ruth asking for help, and she began praying for Megan.  That is when I told myself, "Everyone needs a Ruth."

I wanted to push myself as a writer and extend it beyond my blog.  Ruth has become my encourager, my nudger. (She's quite good at nudging!)  She helped me to say and mean the words, "I am a writer."  I remember thinking, "Every writer needs a Ruth."

If you are here celebrating today, then I know I am not alone in my admiration for Ruth and the gratefulness for the impact her words have on us.  To celebrate, I have written a found poem from comments from her fellow bloggers and friends.

Your words, 
filled with passion,
connect many
shine brightly
and give us hope.

Your love,
permeates everything you do
and spreads to everyone 
who knows you.

reach out to others
and lean into love.

bring joy and inspiration
make our world beautiful
and make us smile.

are a gift.

Thank you
for nudging,
for sharing, 
for writing, 
and for being a light 
in the darkness.

Deeply grateful for your words
and to have your voice 
in our ears
in our hearts, 
For, we would have never written a word to share  
if it weren't for you.

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2017

Thank you for just being Ruth.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Opening Minds - A Teacher Study

A group of colleagues and I are reading and discussing Opening Minds by Peter Johnston.    This book is about how our words impact our students.  The purpose of this book study is to help us focus on growth mindset, and I am certain that it will.  But this first chapter gave me much to think about not only as a teacher, but also as a learner.

I believe that I have a professional responsibility to be the best teacher I can be.  I try hard not to criticize or judge those who accept the status quo, do not partake in professional development, or become stagnant in their teaching practices. That is their choice, and who am I to judge? (Ok, maybe I did judge a little there.)

Instead, I choose to share my learning and to encourage others to seek out opportunities to learn. Reading this first chapter made me think about opening my own mind as a teacher.

I believe I owe it to my students, my colleagues, and my profession to be a learner and to hone my craft as a teacher.

The book opens with a short vignette about a teacher who admits she has made a mistake. Johnston explains that by admitting mistakes, we level the "power difference between teacher and students" (pg. 3).

Students need to see that we are not perfect, and we should not desire an image of perfection.  But as I read further, my thinking turned inward.  How often are we, as teachers, allowed to make mistakes?  When we have a mark of not meeting expectations or ineffective on our evaluations, do we see this as an opportunity for growth?  Or do we see it as failure?  Do administrators allow us to make mistakes and turn them into learning opportunities?  Or do they see us ineffective?

Another take-away from this chapter is that if they(we) don't understand that making a mistake does not mean they(we) are "incompetent, stupid, or not a good person" then "they will not be able to risk taking on learning challenges for fear of making mistakes" (pg. 3).  How often do we, as teachers, risk taking on new learning challenges?  How many teachers even see themselves as learners?  How does this view impact our classrooms?  Our teaching?

If we don't see ourselves as learners and risk taking on learning challenges, how can we even begin to project and instill that image to our students?

I look forward to learning more in the chapters ahead.  If you have read Opening Minds, please feel free to share your thoughts.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Rise and Shine - #PoetryFriday

It's Poetry Friday!  Buffy has this week's round up so please join her at Buffy's Blog.

Welcome to my dusty little corner of the poetry world! 

When I added the title of grad student to my already overwhelming list of titles, I knew something(s) would have to go.  Blogging on a regular basis and writing for fun (academic papers are not what I call writing for fun!) seem to be the current targets of my time stealer.

This past year, I cautiously tipped my toes into the Poetry Friday waters.  You all welcomed me with open arms and hearts.  I hosted a round-up for the first time, and I signed up for the Winter Poem Swap which was organized by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.

Several weeks ago I received my package from Mary Lee at A Year of Reading.  I couldn't wait to share her perfectly-written-for-me poem.  The first Friday went by, and no post.  Then the next Friday.

So, today I publicly apologize to Mary Lee for the delay in acknowledging her beautiful and thoughtful words and publicly share her poem.

Rise and Shine

Like the moon
as she waxes and wanes,

Like the seasons
as they flourish and rest,

Like the cup of tea
as it gathers strength before the sip,

So you rise
reclaiming your reading life,

So you rise
from writing teacher to teacher-writer,

So you rise
leading a whole community to Wonder.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Thank you, Mary Lee, for capturing my heart in your words. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Needle and Thread

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share the celebrations from our week. It has been awhile since I have written a celebration post.  This week was one of those weeks where I taught lessons and learned a lesson.  That is always a cause for celebration!

This week my middle school held its second annual door decorating contest.  It is a week a chaos, messiness and a whole lot of fun.  

My students created a Christmas quilt for our door.  It has not been one of my best years, and I was leery about letting my entire class participate in this year's contest.  I tried to make it simple, yet include each one in the process.  I decided the quilt would be just the answer.

Each student had a nine block pattern and created their own design pattern.  The only rule was that it had to be colored with red, green, and yellow crayons.  (Another reason why dandelion should NOT have been retired!)

My students of the week began piecing it together on the door.  We used the words which were suggested by Margaret Simon, 

"Christmas stitches us together 
with JOY!"

Now if any of you quilt, then you know just how important that 1/4 inch seam allowance is!  As the students pieced it together, the more distorted it became.  And the more I had to close my eyes and say, "kid created" because the sashing, borders, and blocks not lining up was driving me crazy.

Our blocks were crooked, our seams didn't meet, and we had gaps where we shouldn't have had gaps.  As I stood back and looked at our finished door, I realized that my classroom was just like this quilt.  

Each block is different with their own little design, just as each one of my students are. They come from different backgrounds, different abilities, and different personalities. But each one is special in their own scrappy way. Their seams don't always meet. They make mistakes which create crooked paths. They have gaps socially, emotionally, and academically which need to be filled.  

As this epiphany hit me, I realized how much they depend on us, as teachers, to "patch" them up.  Teachers help them to realize they are unique designs, and each block has a special place in the quilt.  We help them to realize their seams might not match, so we set them on a straighter path.  We may even have to rip some out and help them realize starting over isn't so bad.  We need to teach them that the seams are what holds the quilt together.  

And the gaps...oh my are there gaps. That is when teachers add a little here and add a little there to help the masterpiece come together.

And so I added the line,
...and teachers patch us up
with LOVE!

Our door was 6th grade runner-up,
but I think it was the emotional appeal of the judges and NOT neatness! 

So yes, my door is a little scrappy, a little crooked, and in need of a little patching.

Just like my students.

What did I learn this week?  I need to look at my students like this quilt and realize they are not perfect, and they have gaps, and they certainly have crooked seams, but they are trusting me and needing me to hold the needle and the thread.