Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Advice from a Slice #SOL21

 

A big thank you to all of those at Two Writing Teachers for creating and supporting this community of writers. 

Kelly Gallagher shared this image on Twitter the other day, and I thought it would be a great writing prompt for me and for students. So many perspectives from which to write.

Turns out, it was a great final slice.


Advice from a Slice

Find the ordinary.

Capture the small moment.

Look everywhere.

Keep a notebook.

Tell the story.

Write from the heart.

Warn your friends and family.

Silence the critic.

Tame the fear.

Just hit the publish button.

Celebrate.



Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A Buzz Around Town #SOL21

 

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


There was a buzz around town. We haven't had a buzz like this (excluding anything pandemic-related!) since Walmart got new carts. Everyone was talking about it. 

Megan and I left school, went home and changed clothes, and headed for the riverwalk. On the way, she told me about the line earlier in the day. But people didn't mind because you know, the buzz.

Arriving at the riverwalk, we walked the block or two and lined up. The line wasn't long yet. We looked out over the river and talked about how swift the current was. We stood and talked to the college kids in front of us. We waved and said hello to students who were walking to the end of the line. 

We texted people we knew who were in line ahead. "How long have you been waiting?" 

"Right now the wait is about an hour."

"You ordered early!?!"

The buzz continued. We continued to wait. And yes, we stood in line for over an hour for you know, the buzz.

What was the buzz? Chick-fil-A brought their mobile unit to our hometown. They are doing market research to see where and if they should open a new restaurant here.

And that was the buzz around town!







Monday, March 29, 2021

Sweet Sixteen Poetry Style #SOL21

  

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

I live in Indiana, and spring means basketball and state tournament time for us.

I have seen teachers do March Madness brackets with books, but I have never been able to wrap my brain around that large of a project. This year I have seen a few mentions of April Poetry brackets and thought I just might be able to handle the reading of poems in a Sweet Sixteen bracket. 

I put some feelers out on Twitter and had a few teachers reach out and share their resources. 

I could do this! 

I began looking in my files and books for poems I have yet to share with students and searched online for others. Yesterday, I narrowed my list down to sixteen and created my bracket.

I will share two poems a day. Students will read, analyze, and evaluate which poems should move on in the tournament until we have a winner. I am hoping to have some "heated" arguments on why certain poems are better than others and deserve students' votes.

But more importantly, I hope to introduce some amazing poems to my students. Reading poetry is always one of those things I want to do more of, and this is another chance to do just that. 

And hopefully, this will entice a few of them to write a poem of their own!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Best Colors #SOL21

 

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

The best red is my book bag - no need to say more.

The best orange is the Florida sunset shared with Megan when we celebrated the completion of our Master's degrees together.

The best yellow is the sun, which gives us light even in the darkest of times.

The best green is Megan and Ethan's high school sports uniforms.

The best blue is the pool - my summer happy place.

The best indigo is my Megan and Ethan's eyes - part mine and part Dave's.

The best violet is the lilacs getting ready to bloom.

The best white is the minivan where I taxied my children so many years ago.

The best black is my moleskin notebook.

The best grey is my weekend sweatshirt.

The best brown is the logs in the fireplace.

"The best colors are everywhere because they are in the things I love." ~ Deborah Dillon


Thank you Deborah Dillon for the mentor used in this slice.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

A Place to Pause #SOSMagic

Today is one of my favorite days of the year. The day we take the remaining firewood from the back porch and bring out the patio furniture.

My porches are places where I take time for myself. A place where I write and read and think and work and dream...

a place to pause.

Tonight as I write this post, I pause and listen:

    a train bellows in the distance; another replies,

        two geese fly over, honking good night,

            a robin frantically chirps, shouting danger to his friends,

                   children laugh, trying to squeeze in a few more minutes of playtime before sundown,

                        a dog howls at the sirens down below the hill,

                                and the timer goes off telling me my husband's chocolate chip cookies are                                                     warm and ready for that cold glass of milk chilling in the freezer.

Yes...a place to pause.


I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

A Purpose Bigger than Test Scores #SOL21

 

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

"You must have a purpose in your program that is bigger than winning" - John Wooden

This quote by legendary coach, John Wooden, has me thinking. We are about to embark on what I call testing season. Our faculty meetings have been required training for administering the test and watching videos of procedures. Students have taken practice tests, and teachers have read required manuals.

Although there has been very little talk about the testing season in classrooms and hallways, there is a feeling in the air. We sense it lingering.

I am one who believes that if I teach my students how to write effectively and read critically, then I have done my job. (Or at least part of it because there is much more to it.) I don't do test prep, and I really don't stress over it.

Wooden's words will be in my mind as we navigate through these last eight weeks of school because I know I have a purpose in my classroom that is bigger than test scores.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Friday Night Rabbit Hole #SOL21

 

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

You can just call me Alice. As in Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole.

Tonight, I started off watching a video on Choice Literacy about reading conferences and three hours later I came up out of the rabbit hole. And let me say, it is only because I still needed to write a slice for today. 

If I were to climb a ladder to find my way out, each rung might look like something like this:

"Choice Literacy"
Christie Rush-Levine
reading conferences
entry points
reading response
"Middle Web"
Marilyn Pryle
"Moving Writers"
reading projects
Dan Feigelson
reading conference videos

Time to write a slice!
There's nothing like that Friday night rabbit hole!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Waiting for Normal #SOL21

 

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

Book spine poetry is always a favorite slice for me. Sifting through book titles on my shelves while capturing a moment in time is a fun challenge. Here are my previous years:  2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016.


Today's poem comes from the announcement from our governor that he will be lifting some of our restrictions. I know many of us are waiting for normal to return.


Small Steps
piecing me together
brave new girl
waiting for normal.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

A Life Equation #SOL21

  

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

Life Equation:

2 years - Diet Cokes = 1 healthier person


I realized this week that a little over two years ago I gave up Diet Cokes. My mom has early dementia. I had read about the effects that diet drinks have on the brain, so I gave them up. There are times when I miss them, but I know I am a much healthier person without them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Right Now #SOL21

 

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

What I'm reading - I started Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen, a book about a young girl who has problems with drugs and alcohol. Her parents don't know what to do with her, so they send her to a therapeutic wilderness camp. I know so many kids get in over their heads, and they don't even know it is happening. I can't wait to see how she how makes it through!

What I'm writing - I write for Choice Literacy, a multimedia resource of articles, videos, and professional development guides for teachers and literacy leaders. I have a couple of articles that I am revising before sending them off to my editor, Ruth Ayres.

What I'm learning - Sometimes we react to situations in ways we regret. A solution is always possible. Sometimes we just need to walk away in order to find it.

What I'm loving - I'm loving the sounds of my daughter cheering on basketball teams while watching March Madness. Tournament time was greatly missed in my household last year, and I am loving hearing those sounds again.

I found and saved this format from an early slice, but I forgot to save where I found it. So thank you, slicer! If it was you, please let me know so I can give you credit for the idea.

Monday, March 22, 2021

When a line from a book grabs your heart. #SOL21

 

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

I'm reading Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen. It is one of those books where I wonder if it is too old for my 6th graders. Can they handle it? Will they understand it? Am I giving them ideas they don't need to think about yet? 

Wren is a girl who began experimenting with drugs and alcohol when she was a middle-schooler. She began running with the wrong crowd because they gave her some much-needed attention. Her parents know that she is heading down the wrong path and don't know what to do or how to help her. So they send her to a wilderness camp. 

Tonight as I was reading, a line grabbed my heart. 

"Sometimes it doesn't take much for what's dormant to bloom."

This line is filled with so much hope. I know it is a metaphor for Wren's life. She has been dormant for so long and needs someone to show her that her life can be beautiful.

I think about my former students who took the same path as Wren, who are living life a dormant stage. 

I think about the students sitting in my classroom today. Do I have a Wren looking back at me? Or maybe avoiding looking at me? 

If I place this book on my shelf, will it help someone to bloom? 

I am not finished with the book yet, so I still have many questions. 

But it doesn't take much for what's dormant to bloom.

...Maybe I will.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

A Grading Conundrum #SOL21

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

Have you ever wondered if you graded an essay twice within days of each other, would you give it the same score? I have often thought about it. 

Today actually.

Over my spring break, I graded 90 essays. Each class period's rubrics were completed, the rubric score converted and put into the grade book, and the papers carefully paperclipped together. 

Or so I thought.

I finished grading on Thursday and found that I had two papers from first period that weren't in with the rest of the class' stack. Thinking that seemed odd, I went in search of the other rubrics.

What a conundrum. 

I have looked everywhere. In my house. In my classroom. In my teacher bag. I even looked in file folders that I had out, thinking I might have accidentally slipped them in there. But no. They are nowhere to be found.

Would I score the essay the same? I guess I will find out later today. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Is it time to stop my social media break? #SOL21

 

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

I used to love Twitter! I loved connecting with like-minded teachers and sharing books and teaching ideas. But over the past year, social media has left a bad taste in my mouth. It began to drag me down so I have taken many social media breaks, hoping that it would change when I returned. Well, for the most part, it didn't. 

As I was thinking about what to plan for April and watching the start of March Madness and watching the newest Penny and Kelly video, I thought I would try a poetry bracket where we would read different poems, vote on them, and determine a winner. We begin our two weeks of state testing in April, and I thought this would be fun to do during that time.

But I really had no idea where to start or how to begin.

In the past, I would automatically put something out on Twitter. But I've been avoiding Twitter because it hadn't been serving me as a teacher as it had in the past. What was I going to do? I needed some ideas, some teachers who have had success with this project.

Late last night I decided to take another dive into the Twittersphere, and I was pleasantly surprised at the response. Before I went to bed, I had three teachers willing to share what they had done in the past and several who had shared poems they have used in their classrooms or ones they enjoyed. I even woke up to more this morning. I am so thankful for the generosity of teachers who are willing to share with others. That is what I enjoyed about social media before, especially Twitter.

I don't know that I am ready to be fully committed to Twitter again, but at least our relationship is starting to mend - thanks to a few teachers.

Now, to start sifting through poems and creating that bracket!


Friday, March 19, 2021

My Week in Verbs #SOL21

 

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

It is going on 9:00, and I have yet to write a slice. I have been cleaning ALL day, and the only time I sat down was to eat pizza for dinner. I am tuckered, but I refuse to give in to my achy, tired body and miss a day slicing.

Today is the last day of my spring break - weekends don't count! So here is my week in a list of verbs!

slicing 
cooking
baking
writing
shopping
reading
planning
playing
laughing
cleaning
soaking
sleeping
rejuvenating

It's been a busy but productive and fun week.

Here's to a weekend of getting back into the routine!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Donalyn Miller and a Pivot #SOL21

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

Pivot. 

Does this word make you cringe? It seems to be a current buzzword that may have a negative connotation attached to it. Many teachers have had to pivot this past year in ways we never thought we could and in ways we didn't want to. 

If I think back to my early teaching years, I remember a pivot. It was the summer before my second year of teaching, and The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller was published. I wasn't on social media at the time, so I honestly do not know how I heard about the book. But I devoured it and soaked in her every word.

In my first year of teaching, I taught reading the way I was taught - the way I thought I was "supposed" to teach. We read a story from the anthology every week and completed the accompanying worksheets. I hated it, and so did my students. 

I knew this way of teaching wasn't working. I knew better ways of teaching were out there. I knew I needed a change. A pivot.

That summer I read The Book Whisperer, and I slowly added her ideas to my classroom. I saw student engagement shift. I saw motivation to read increase. I saw my passion for teaching grow.

This book showed me "that's the way we've always done it" is not always the right way to do it. This book gave me permission to make the changes I needed to make for my students and for me. This book validated my beliefs. This book was the pivot that turned my teaching in a new direction. This book saved me. 

And I have not looked back.

Donalyn recently posted about the anniversary of the book on Facebook. She states, "Twelve years ago today, I became a published author when The Book Whisperer was released. I never imagined how my personal and professional life would change."

Me neither, Donalyn. Me neither.

Happy 12th anniversary! And thank you for helping so many teachers find the positive in the pivot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

One Lucky Teacher #SOL21

 

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




When I began this challenge, I made a promise to myself that I would not write a post about the pandemic or anything related to COVID. Last year's challenge seemed to be consumed with pandemic life, and it was not stealing any of this year's slices. 

I know it has not been an easy year for many teachers, the stress level has reached an all-time high, and teachers are not getting the respect they deserve. I am sorry if you have experienced any (or all) of these, and I do not mean for this post to take those experiences lightly. 

But for me, things have gone extremely well this school year. Reflecting on this Saint Patrick's Day, I realize how lucky I am as a teacher, so today I share 17 reasons why--even if I am breaking my no-writing-about-the-pandemic promise.

  1. I am lucky to have an administration that was ready with a re-entry plan by mid-summer.
  2. I am lucky they had teacher input during the entire process.
  3. I am lucky to have a principal who knew we didn't expect him to have all the answers because we simply did not know all the questions.
  4. I am lucky to have walked into my classroom on August 4th and to teach my 90 students face-to-face.
  5. I am lucky we prayed to stay in school for at least two weeks and here we are 140 school days later.
  6. I am lucky to have a custodial staff who works diligently to make sure our school is sanitized and safe.
  7. I am lucky to have students who do everything we ask of them to keep all of us safe.
  8. I am lucky to have the technology to reach quarantined students.
  9. I am lucky to have had no COVID transmission at school.
  10. I am lucky to have a district-wide positivity rate of less than 5% for the entire school year.
  11. I am lucky to have parents who kept their kids home when they needed to.
  12. I am lucky to have a team of teachers who support one another.
  13. I am lucky to be able to eat lunch every day with teachers in my wing out in the commons area.
  14. I am lucky to have a school nurse who keeps track of all things COVID.
  15. I am lucky to share books with students.
  16. I am lucky to write side by side with my students.
  17. I am one lucky teacher.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Puddle Waddler #SOL21

 

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

I sit in the drive-through at CVS waiting to pick up a prescription when I notice two Canadian geese waddling down the street. Yes, down the street. We have a small lake in this area where the geese are abundant, and sometimes they extend their boundaries just a bit.

As I watch the pair, I wonder, "I know geese mate for life, but how do you tell which one is female and which one is male?" 

As I ponder this deep question, one of them walks straight down the middle of the street looking back every once in a while to see if the partner is still there. The other one walks along and makes a point to waddle through every puddle along the way.

I think I just found my answer.

Monday, March 15, 2021

It's a Party - ID Required #SOL21

 

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


During the past couple of years of the Slice of Life March Challenge, I have held a slicer party. For two parties, we shared our favorite things, and last year was all about self-care. I have been asked about hosting one again, and I could not disappoint my blogging friends! 

As the month wraps up and when you need a slice, (and yes, you know it WILL happen!) accept this invitation to my party.  The best part is that you can join the party anytime during the month when you need a slice. 

You must bring your "identification." Staying true to the "story writing" of the challenge, please introduce yourself depending on when we would have met using this as a mentor text. Then let me know you have joined the party, and I will include you on the guest list! It will be fun to read everyone's IDs! 

“Depending On When You Met Me” by Devon Gundry, Soul Pancake

Depending on when you met me, I might have been: a checker’s champion, the kid who squirted Super Glue in his eye, a competitive Ping-Pong player, Tweedle Dum, a high school valedictorian, a fake blond, 1/12 of an all-male a capella group, a graduate of the Vanderbilt School of Engineering, a nomad, a street musician, or a pigeon assassin.

Depending On When You Met Me by Leigh Anne Eck

Depending on when you met me, I might have been: dressed as a twin with my one year and 19 days older sister, the girl with the pin curls and crooked teeth, a drum major who ran out of gas while running home to get her whistle, a high school doubles tennis player, a McDonald's employee who was sexually harassed during a time when no one talked about harassment, an Alpha Phi, A Butler University graduate with a two-year degree earned in four years, a college graduate with student loan debt, a retail manager who was Manager of the Year, eloping with her husband, a stay-at-home-mom, a 40-year old college student, a teacher.

Just imagine all of us sitting around and sharing these stories! What fun we would have! I hope you consider joining us this month because when there is a party, the more the merrier!

Here is the guest list! Check out their IDs!

Ramona from Pleasures from the Page

Jackie from Create a Literate Classroom

Erica from The Biblio Bard Blogger

Carol from Carol's Corner

Christie from Wondering and Wandering

Terje from Just for a Month

Heather from Writing My Way

Britt from Multifaceted Musings

Glenda at Evolving English Teacher

Patty at Growing & Learning

Donnetta at Teacher Reader Writer

Trina from Trinarrative

Rita from Practicing What I Preach

Mary from Write Between the Lines

Margaret from Reflections on the Teche

Vivian at Ms. Chen in the Middle

Shawnda at Shawnda Stories (I hope the first name is right!)

Amy from Puttin' Out There

Fran at Resource - Full

Sonia from Rants of the Newly Old

Judy at Joodles Now & Then

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Two O'Clock Dinnertime #SOL21

 

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

I love cooking. I have been cooking since I was a young girl. When I was growing up, my mom worked, and we had four kids in our family. To help her out, I would get dinner going before she got home. We eventually had a "rule" that whoever cooked, didn't have to do the dishes! 

As I was raising my own children, so much revolved around mealtime. We were a routine family. Naptime, mealtime, bathtime were all on schedule. As a stay-at-home-mom, I had dinner on the table by 5:00 almost every night. (For that matter, I still do!) Dinner was, and still is, the main event in our house.

My son Ethan lives an hour away, and he comes home most weekends to do laundry and get a home-cooked meal. This weekend he wanted to eat and head back to his apartment earlier than usual. 

This meant eating before 5:00. This meant I had to think about the timing. This meant that I had baked a cherry pie, made baked ziti for the take-back meal, and had steaks marinating before 11:00!

I don't know what I am going to at 5:00 when it will be "dinnertime"! And I thought the time change was bad enough today!

Happy Pi Day!


Saturday, March 13, 2021

A Little Slice of Memory #SOL21

 

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

My first college experience was at Butler Univerity, a private Indiana university. I loved my four years there and have some fond memories of living in a sorority house. But I also have some very fond memories of babysitting for a family who lived fairly close to campus.

They had two girls. The baby was six months old and the oldest was preschool age when I first started. I would go to their house while their mother shopped, worked out, or met with friends. I usually did this twice a week during the day, and then one night a week, their parents had a date night. A couple of times, I spent the whole weekend with the girls while their parents went out of town. The summer before my senior year, they took me to Florida with them so I could stay with them while they went to dinner or a movie. I loved this family!

After leaving college, I moved home and lost contact with them. Of course, we didn't have social media back in the late 80s to stay connected.

This morning something triggered a memory of them. I searched on Facebook and found one of the girls. 

I thought to myself, Do I reach out? Will she think I am this crazy person who says she was her babysitter? That just sounds like a creepy stalker!

But I did! I told her who I was, the details of the time I spent with her family, and how much I loved her mother. 

A  few hours later she responded! She told me about her and her sister's lives now and about their parents. She even sent me pictures. They are both successful and have beautiful families. She filled me on her parents and that her mother was touched that I had reached out.

I am not sure what triggered the memory or what made me reach out, but I am so glad I did!

Friday, March 12, 2021

A Slice of Reflection #SOSMagic

I wasn't my best this week. I had two incidents where students were critical of my class and my teaching. I didn't react the way I should have. It felt personal. I took it personally. I was shocked they said it because it was unkind and hurtful. 

Then I remembered they are kids, and looking back on the week, they were probably right. My teaching was sucky -- honestly, for about two weeks. The snow days we had in February and Spring Break next week left our curriculum all caddywampus. We were filling in the gaps like we were plugging a sinking boat. We were scrambling and nothing was coherent. They weren't engaged, and that wasn't their fault.

Friday night stretches out before me, leading into a Spring Break week of reflection. I need this time to remember my teaching beliefs and core values and create a plan to get my teaching back on track.

I want to be my best. My students deserve it.


I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

Hello There... #SOL21

 

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

I came across this image a few years ago on Pintrest, and it has been a great I-don't-know-what-to-write slice. 



i am officially on Spring Break!
i keep a stack of books beside my bed
i wish things were back to normal
i love being able to teach my students face-to-face
i dance - never
i sing when no one else is listening
i think teachers of writing need to write
i really want to go shopping on spring break
i should clean my house instead
i can write "real" slices this week because of "i am"
i like to stay up late and sleep in
i make delicious fruit pies
i always eat pizza on Friday nights!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Why don't I do this more often? #SOL21


 

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

Do you ever do something and then ask yourself, "Why don't I do this more often?"

Like walking, eating better, cleaning, reading, writing, taking time for me, 

or writing positive notes to parents?

Each grading period, we are asked to write positive notes to parents. Today, we had early dismissal for parent conferences. Since I teach middle school, we typically don't have many conferences, but we still stay until 6:00. I took this time to write out my cards.

Looking through my list of students, I chose one who has had a complete turnaround since moving to a different period without his friends. He has worked hard and his effort has been amazing. Another student is a ray of sunshine in my day. She always has a smile and brightens up any room she walks into. The third one was a girl in my co-taught class. She has also worked hard and tries her best on everything, even when it is difficult for her.

After writing out the addresses, I thought about how good that felt to find those positive characteristics in my students. Some days, the students who act up or don't turn in work seem to make their way into my thoughts. But not today. Today those positive thoughts persevered. 

And I found myself asking, "Why don't I do this more often?"

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Tuesday Tangibles #SOL21

 

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

One day last week while I was reading, commenting, and exploring a new blog, I found a July post called Tuesday Tangibles by Megan McCormick. Here is my day written in Tuesday's tangibles...posted on a Wednesday!

alarm clock

peanut butter toast

student greetings

revision strategies

book stacks

notebooks

spring-like temperatures

spring sprouts sighting

brewed iced tea

Time To Write

chocolate chip cookies

cold milk

bubble bath

light-weight blankets

good night kiss

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A Spring Break Advertisement #SOL21

 

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


Spring Break coming: good boat needed.