Saturday, March 31, 2018

Since March 1st #sol18

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We did it!  It is hard to believe the month of March is over.  I took a form I saw at the beginning of the month and put a different spin on it and summarized my month.

It was certainly a full month of being a writer, a student, and a teacher.

Since March 1st, I...
  • co-hosted #TeachWrite Twitter chat
  • planned the April chat
  • started a grad class
  • finished a grad class
  • created and delivered a presentation at our faculty meeting
  • survived my son's college spring break trip to Myrtle Beach
  • started our middle school yearbook
  • finished our middle school yearbook
  • completed the first round of our standardized testing
  • started a notebook (trying to have something to say for our May #TeachWrite chat)
  • read Kate Roberts' new book A Novel Approach
  • read Reimagining Writing Assessment by Maja Wilson
  • joined a Voxer group to discuss it (brilliant minds in that group!)
  • said hello and goodbye to spring break
    • rejuvenated
  • watched the movie Wonder for the first time
    • cried
  • had lunch with high school friends
    • laughed
  • wrote 31 slices
    • celebrated
May we all continue to find the stories that make up our lives.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Reading On a Day Off #sol18

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I just returned from Walmart where I was shopping in preparation for family Easter dinners.  As I was weaving between carts and customers and employees stocking shelves, and screaming kids, I saw the mother of one of my students.

I stopped to say hello, and in our conversation, she asked me, "So did you threatened them?"

I looked at her cautiously, thinking what did her son go home and tell her.  I was relieved when she told me he was up before her today (we are out of school for Good Friday) and he was reading - something he typically doesn't do.  Did I mention we are out of school today?

Inside I was doing a happy dance!  I started book clubs yesterday, and he was home reading his book club selection...on a day off!  This is why book clubs are an important part of my classroom. Student's don't need threats or prizes or points or pizza or competitions or consequences to motivate them to read.

They just need a great book, time to read, and someone to share it with.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Impression #sol18

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Two more days until we cross the finish line.

The daily habit of writing, or better yet, finding a topic to write about each day is a challenge. But because of this challenge, I place myself into the heart of teaching of writing.  The excitement, the frustration, the doubt, and the celebration.

For me, this is one of the best experiences to understand...to really understand...my student writers and their experience of finding themselves as true writers. 

Today, I leave another snippet poem that I think captures the experience of writing, sharing and living within the slicing community. 

And hopefully words to inspire my students.




Make a memory box
make it yours
don't just live
give something wonderful
a lasting impression.

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Book Spine Poetry #sol18

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We are getting to the end, and today I was worried. I had no idea what I was going to write about.  Nothing was becoming an inspiration, a muse, an idea, a slice.  

Then I remembered I had not used one of my I-really-don't-have-anything-to-write-about-so-I-will-write-a-spine-poem slice.

I quickly searched through my box of books beside my bed, arranged, and rearranged until this "masterpiece" was created...and my slice was written!


The book thief
jumped in
between the lines...
Gone!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Anything Can Become a Slice #sol18

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Megan wakes up and joins me at the dining room table.  "Are you working on the next class," she asks.

"No, I am commenting."

"Commenting?"

"Yes, you know it's March, where we post every day.  I am reading others' slices and commenting on them," I reply and return to my computer.

Fast forward to the afternoon.

Click.

"What are you taking a picture of?" Megan asks.

"The notification that they are evaluating my paper," I explain.  "Remember, it's March and anything can become a slice."

"I think I better keep my mouth shut," she says "before I become a slice."

Too late! Yes, anything can become a slice.

Monday, March 26, 2018

You look like... #sol18

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A former students walks in today with an office message.  He looks at me and says, 

"You look like they've been talking."

Not sure what that looks like, but he knows me.  He gets me.  And he was right.

It was one of those days.

Welcome back from Spring Break!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

I Wait... #sol18


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8:30 PM - I hit submit and wait.
129 and 75
and wait.

9:45 PM - I check it again before I go to bed.
122 and 68

8:30 AM - I wake up, check my email, make sure my scheduled post went live,
and check it again.
103 and 49
and wait.

Eat breakfast, shower, throw a load of laundry in.
and check it again.
73 and 27

11:00 AM - Yes! Made some progress this morning,
and I wait some more.

Go to Walmart. Come back and check it again. 
52 and 10

1:15 PM - They're getting closer,
yet still I wait.

I can't stand it, so one more check.
44 and 4
2:09 PM - Ugh! and still I wait.


When I submit an assessment for my graduate class, it tells me how many papers are ahead of mine.  Last night when I submitted my second assignment for the day, I had 75 ahead of me for the first one and 129 for the second one.

I like knowing where I am in line, but I get just a little obsessive.  I even keep track of the numbers on a sticky note and try to determine how many they score per hour. (Yes, they evaluate 24/7!)

And when I see this...



I know they are evaluating.

and I wait some more.

Until I see this!

Yes!  I passed.

And now,  

I wait for the second one - 39 more to go!


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Empty Nest #sol18

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If you are experiencing an empty nest or standing on the edge of one, I encourage you read this post by Ann Voskamp

I'll be waiting...


Love and pain are two chambers of the same heart
that pump courage through the aching veins. ~ Ann Voskamp


I'm glad you came back, but I must say, my words are not nearly as beautiful as hers.  

Her post must have lingered in my heart and in my mind because tonight as I was working on a "snippet" poem, these words found me.



Try to remember
the tug of love.
Suddenly...
It gets easier...
and then they leave
all grown up.

Give something wonderful
from old roots,
our most cherished values,
home, sweet home.

It's a guarantee.


The house seems just a little too quiet tonight.

Bloggers note: the idea of a found poem from snipped words from magazines came from Elsie.  The word "snippet poem" just evolved into my own repertoire. This is a great slice idea, and I have used it several times. Here is Elsie's slice, my original inspiration.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Five Books I've Never Read #sol18

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I like to call myself a reader. But my daughter jokingly proclaims that a person is not a true reader if he/she has not read Harry Potter.

Not that I have ever questioned myself as being a reader, I know I am one.  However, there are books I have not read, and I am almost embarrassed to admit it.  Today's slice is a list of five books (although there are many more that I could add) that I have not read and have no desire to read or a series that I have started and have no desire to finish.

Harry Potter - I read the first three books because of my daughter's proclamation. I have no desire to finish the series or to watch the movie. I am eternally grateful J. K. Rowling for writing these books because I believe she created a whole new generation of readers and brought back the love of reading for many who became aliterate. For me, Harry Potter has too much make-believe that I need to keep track of, and it became too much of a chore to keep it all straight.

Percy Jackson - I started the first book of this series three times before I was able to complete it.  Again, I read the first three and have no desire to pick it back up. I do not have enough background knowledge of mythology to understand all of the characters, and I wonder if that is problem for my readers too.

The Outsiders - Honestly, I don't even remember hearing about this book when I was a teenager. Our 7th graders read this as a whole class novel, but it is just not one that has grabbed me.

Anne of Green Gables - Many teachers list this book as one of their favorites, but I have not read this one. I think growing up, the length was a deterrent for me. This is one I think I could pick up as an adult reader.

1984 - We read many class novels when I was in high school, but this was not one of them. I know this has also had a recent resurgence and would be one that I could pick up.  But it would be low on my list, as I am not much of a classic reader either.

I am sure many more books are out there that I have not read and people would gasp and say, "You've not read that one?"  But I'm OK with that because I know I am a reader...despite what my daughter says!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

One of Us #sol18

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I have written about my high school friends in several posts.  Although we live in places throughout the country, we have been friends for almost 40 years. We get together every couple of years, and since I began blogging, I have documented our times together. 


I wrote about our Homecoming celebrations; how we recreated our junior prom picture - 34 years laterturning 50 together and the power of our friendship; and our social media of the 1980's - writing notes.

We began calling ourselves the EJDs, or eight jelly donuts, in high school, and we affectionately refer to that name still today.

A few years ago, one of us had a bracelet made with each of our birthstones. It is a gift each of us treasures.  The bracelet not only symbolizes our friendship, but also our collective strength.

This past year, one of us began to experience some health issues. One of our links was weakened. Yesterday, one of us was home to visit and those of us who live close by got together for lunch. 

For almost three hours...

We laugh.

We cry.

We remember.

We find joy in the forgotten.

Tears begin to slip as we say goodbye.

We hug tight.

We send our strength to the one of us who needs it.

And we know in our hearts,

our friendship

is strong,

and yes, 

our story continues.





Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Spring Cleaning My Attitude #sol18

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Signs of spring are popping up in shades of green, yellow, and purple. The birds are beginning to greet me in the morning, and the days are getting longer.

This time of year also brings thoughts of purging, cleaning, and airing out. Yes, spring cleaning.

As I mopped my floors and sorted through piles this weekend, I realized that I needed to spring clean my attitude. This has been a difficult year of teaching. I have not built the relationships like I typically do. Their behaviors are challenging, and student (and maybe teacher) effort is lacking. My lessons seem flat, and my students are not as engaged as I would like for them to be.

I am tired.

The sad part is that I know exactly how many days of school I have left (40-just in case you want to know), and I am typically not a counter.

Yes, I need to spring clean my attitude.

I know I cannot continue on with this attitude for the remainder of the school year. I need change and that change has to begin with me. So with spring cleaning in mind, I hope to:

Air out the attitude. It starts with me, and I know that. Airing out my attitude will help me to focus on these next 40 days - not the past 140 days. 

Sweep out the negative. I need to make a commitment to myself to not get sucked into the negative attitudes of others. I know negativity breeds more negativity, and I must be strong enough to refuse to be a part of that. 

Polish the positive. I know my students have good qualities. I must take the time to sift through the challenges and find the good qualities in my students. After all, isn't polish suppose to bring out the shine?

Dust the lesson plans. Engaged students are better behaved students. Dusting lesson plans that do not lead to engagement and adding lessons that build creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking will help to make my classroom thrive again.

I have several days to put all of this into perspective and get my attitude in order. Maybe, just maybe, I'll "see the daffodils" and "hear the birds singing" in the hallways next Monday

with my sparkling clean attitude.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

They'd see - but wouldn't know #sol18

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I saw this form on a round-up by Elana at Fall Hugs.  During the weekend comment challenge, she curated a list of forms for her students. Although I borrowed it from Elana, she does not cite where she found it. So, thank you to the original slicer.

If someone would walk into your house, what would they see but wouldn't know.  This was a fun way to share just a little bit more about me and my quirky family.

If someone walked into my home at this moment...

They's see freshly baked snicker doodles, just waiting for a cold glass of milk,
But wouldn't know my husband was the baker.



They'd see me watching The Voice, just waiting for Blake's team in the Battle Rounds,
But wouldn't know it is the ONLY television show I watch.



They'd see a child's table and chair in the dining room, just waiting for a tea party,
But wouldn't know my children are now 25 and 21.


They's see a real Mr. Potato Head in the kitchen window, just waiting for me someone to throw him away,
But wouldn't know it has been there for over three months and now has wrinkles, a tail, and "eyes" for ears.

   


They'd see that I wrote a slice,
But wouldn't know that this was NOT what I intended to write!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Ode to My Paring Knife #sol18

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Do you have a kitchen tool or gadget you couldn't live without?  For me, it is my paring knife. I have had this knife forever, and I am not being hyperbolic. I know I have had this knife for as long as I have been married, if not longer.

I can peel paper-thin potato skins; peel an apple in one long curly piece; and dice vegetables in a wink of an eye.  But only with this paring knife.  I have tried the ones with the plastic handles and the little blades, and I have bought Pampered Chef knives. But I cannot use any of these. I am all thumbs when I do.

So you can imagine how panicked I was when I woke up this morning and my husband asks, "Have you seen the paring knife?  I have looked everywhere and can't find it."

"No, did you look in the drawer?" I ask while opening the drawer where it always is. "Hmm, not in there. Did you look in the other drawer?"

"Yes, it is not in any of them."

All of sudden I panic as I remember the last time I had the knife. My heart starts racing and I feel sick to my stomach. I made pepper salsa and cut a large number of peppers and onions with it one night this week for a faculty carry-in.

"Oh no! What night did I make that salsa? Oh, it was Wednesday, after trash day, The knife must still be in there," and I go out to the porch to the trash can.

I hear him say behind me, "You are going to look for it in there?  More power to you!"

I hold my nose and dive into the bag full of...well, it is a trash bag.  Deep down in the bottom, in the middle of wet paper-towel-wrapped green, yellow, red, and orange pepper guts,

...is my knife!

Today, in its honor, I write an ode.

Ode to My Paring Knife

Oh, paring knife,
I gracefully place your wooden handle in my hands
and together we waltz to the rhythm
of the chopping,
the peeling,
the slicing.
I lead the way;
you follow my lead,
without stepping on my fingers.
Oh, paring knife, 
you are the perfect partner.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Currently I'm... #sol18

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The time always comes in the March challenge when you rely on the tried and true.  Right now on this Saturday evening, I am going back to an old favorite...

Currently, I'm...

thinking about assessing writing with some brilliant educators

thinking (some more) about how I want to make my thinking about assessing writing visible (maybe a series of blog posts?)

enjoying one of our last fires in the fireplace with my daughter and husband

anticipating a quick visit from my college-student-son 

eating a cinnamon coffee cake

listening to the NCAA basketball games

loving Cinderella teams!

feeling lazy on this first day of spring break

needing to start a healthier lifestyle (we have a district challenge coming up!)

reading What Waits in the Water by Kieran Scott and Reimagining Writing Assessment by Maja Wilson

hoping that this rainy, cloudy, cold weather changes soon

Saturday, March 17, 2018

I Am Lucky #sol18

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In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I am listing 17 reasons, in no particular order, why I am lucky!

  1. I have been married to my best friend for 27 years
  2. I have a daughter who feels the joy of teaching on days when it is not joyous
  3. I have a son who has discovered the magic of music
  4. I have children who have made parenting way too easy
  5. I have two sisters who make being the middle child a blessing
  6. I have a mother who continues to be independent and strong
  7. I have a brother who can still be...a typical little brother
  8. I have 7 high school friends who believe that distance apart brings us closer together
  9. I am on spring break
  10. I have piles and piles of books to read this week
  11. I have great colleagues who put the laughter in teaching 
  12. I have supportive administrators who help me to see the teacher I want to become
  13. I have a PLN who nudges when needed and pushes when wanted
  14. I don't have to set an alarm for nine glorious days
  15. I have a roof over my head even if the inside is in need of cleaning
  16. I have the opportunity to continue learning 
  17. I have another slice written!


Friday, March 16, 2018

Ordinary Lives #sol18

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Today's date means we are half-way finished with the Slice of Life Challenge. There have been days when I thought I wasn't going to make it this far.

This year has been different.

It has been difficult.

My plate is full.

Today, I think about these words from Ralph Fletcher, and I carry on

in search of a story.

Writers aren't people 
who have had amazing lives. 
Writers are people 
who find powerful stories 
in their ordinary lives.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Real Authors Use Semicolons #sol18

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This week we have been learning about and using semicolons in our writing.

One student asked, "Do real authors use these?"

"Absolutely!"

"I don't remember seeing semicolons in any book I have ever read," said another student.

"It's because you haven't noticed them; you weren't looking for them.  I bet if you look now, you will find them."

And the chase was on to see who could find one first.  Throughout the room I heard, "Oh, I found one. Here's one. Have you found one yet?"

Finally, they conceded, "I guess you were right, Mrs. Eck. Real authors do use semicolons."

Next up are colons, and I thought this one might take a little more convincing.  Until I found this graphic after school:


What do you think?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Like a Mom #sol18

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I live in Indiana, and if you know anything about living in Indiana this time of year, then you know that it is basketball tournament time.  Basketball is king...or in my case queen.

My daughter and I were watching the girls state finals on TV a couple of weeks ago. The team who had beat them in the tournament was playing. We were both talking and commenting on the game. You know, the good plays and the bad moments and the players/teams we did or didn't like.

My daughter Megan and sister Janis
coached high school basketball together
for the first time this year.

She looked at me and said, "You watch basketball like a mom."

Thinking that I didn't hear her right, I asked her to repeat it.

"You watch basketball like a mom."

"What does that mean?"

She shook her head and said, "You just do."

Although I have never played basketball, it has been a huge part of my life and has been a connection between my daughter and my sister. 

I started adding up the years that I have watched girls basketball:

Megan - 10 years as a player
Megan -  7 years as a coach
Sister -    4 years as a player (played college ball but I didn't get to see many of those)
Sister -  10 years as a coach here in our hometown

Total years - 31 years collectively.

Yeah, I think I have earned the right to watch like a mom!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Lemonade Stand #sol18

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My husband has saved some unusual things from our children's childhood. Many are tucked away here and there, and some hang from his workbench. Many are endearing and bring back such special memories.  This is all of those.




It was far from freshly squeezed!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Where Have All the Readers Gone? #sol18

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Last week our high school newspaper shared this survey.

This is alarming.

This is scary.

This is so, so wrong.

As someone who is a literacy advocate and who promotes independent reading, I am confounded. I don't see how this (no matter how unscientific and unreliable the results may be) can be acceptable to any English teacher.

This survey led me to reflect on my own beliefs about independent reading and how those beliefs affect my students. It also makes me wonder where have all the readers gone?

I believe...

  • if we talk about books, students will read
  • if we have well-stocked classroom libraries, students will read
  • if we place independent reading at the center of our classrooms, students will read
  • if we give students choice, students will read
  • if we limit whole class novels, students will read
  • if we make reading a social activity, students will read
  • if we, as teachers, read what our students read, students will read

Usually, what we expect, is what we get. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Since Last March... #sol18

Join Two Writing Teachers and other teacher-writers as we share a slice of life every single day in the month of March.

A popular slice has been one where the slicer shares things that have happened since last March. I thought I would use this idea today.

Since last March...

  • I have written 51 ones blog posts (that's about 25 behind the previous year)
  • My son left for college
  • My daughter began her 3rd year of teaching
  • I celebrated 27 years of marriage
  • My sister became a cancer survivor
  • I lost my 92 year old grandmother
  • I organized a one book, one district, one community reading of the book Wonder
  • I began working toward my Master's degree
  • I presented at two conferences
  • I co-created a Twitter chat, a Facebook group, and a supportive tribe of teacher-writers
  • I was asked to help submit a proposal for NCTE this fall (if accepted, it will be my first one!)
  • I chose STEP as my one little word
because every journey begins with a single step.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Capture the Moment #sol18

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"Being in the moment is becoming more important 
than capturing the moment."

I heard this quote in the middle of a discussion on K-LOVE radio today. The woman was talking about how technology, specifically the use of cameras on our phones, has changed the way we capture moments.

She went on to discuss a wedding she attended and how the guests were using cell phones to take pictures of the bride walking down the aisle.  People had pictures out on social media before the bride even said, "I do."

Are we becoming a society who is placing too much importance on being in the moment? Are we becoming a society who wants to be first to let the world know about something?  Is our desire to be part of the moment over stretching our boundaries and preventing us from capturing it?

Maybe.

This quote had me thinking about my writing life. As writers, I think we do both. I find myself (especially during the month of March) being more in tune with the moments of my day and paying attention to my world. 

I walk around with a metaphorical butterfly net, just watching and waiting.

To use the words from Andy Schoenborn, we "freeze-frame" those moments and stack words to capture them. It's what we do as writers.

We capture the moment while being present in the moment.

Today, go out into the world, 
                   
                                       be in the moment, 

                                                            and capture it.

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Buzz #sol18

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It's been awhile since I've had a buzz...and I don't mean the adult beverage kind. I'm talking about the language arts buzz in the hallway.

We read an Article of the Week on a regular basis in our classroom. I try to find articles that will appeal to 6th graders or ones that feature current events that I feel my students need to know about and understand.  This week I chose one about Logan Paul and his You Tube video about the suicide forrest.  It was an opinion article, and I felt like it would create some interesting conversations in our classroom.  I found out they had some very strong opinions of their own.

Kids came in asking, "Are we really reading about Logan Paul?"

"Yes, we are."

After class they ran to their friends telling them about the article.  Students in the math class next door overheard me and asked the math teacher, "Did Mrs. Eck just say Logan Paul?  Does she know who he is?"

Actually, I didn't before I heard about the video on social media.  But they don't need to know that!

I'll just let them keep thinking that they have a pretty cool language arts teacher!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

I'd rather... #sol18

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The other day I read a post by Michelle Haseltine at One grateful Teacher about her love for mornings.  I am not a morning person, and her post inspired me to think about personal preferences.  

I'd rather stay up late than get up early.  I prefer to reflect on the day instead of anticipate a new one.  I like listening to the stillness of the night instead of the noisiness of the morning.  Although I do not sleep late, I am at my best at night.

I'd rather read a paper book than a digital book.  I prefer to turn the pages with my fingers and breathe in the smell of a new book. I like using my special bookmarks instead of a ribbon icon to mark my place. Buying books and organizing them on my shelves makes me smile.

I'd rather pile things up than put them away.  I prefer to be a "piler" and I admit it. Piling occurs in my home, my classroom, and even my desktop on my computer. But I can usually tell you which pile something is in.

I'd rather eat something salty than something sweet. I prefer chips and crunch as a snack. Now, I won't turn down a sweet offered to me, but I would typically reach for the chips.  

I'd rather slice in the morning than wait unil the evening.  I prefer to have my slices written the day before posting...although I AM a procrastinator.  Unfortunately, these past few days, that hasn't happened.

Thank you, Michelle, for inspiring this quick slice for today! Now, I am off to write my post for tomorrow!