Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Month of Slicing

What a Slice of Life it has been! 
I was worried when I started that I wouldn't be able to post every day.... and I did!
I am proud of that!

I learned so much from the other Slicers this month. Each day, I looked forward to reading posts that inspired me and taught me about writing. I continue to grow as a writer and this Slice of Life challenge was just what I needed.

I appreciated the comments I received from other Slicers. They helped me develop a stronger sense of being a writer. I eagerly waited for comments to post each day and met so many wonderful people.

Thanks to the #sol16 community. Your willingness to share has been inspiring. I felt connected to so many people this month. My hope is that we stay connected.

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for making this happen!

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 31 - A Month of Slicing

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I Expected Books to Find Me

When I really need inspiration, I go back and reread my notebooks. They are sprinkled with my favorite quotes, notes I took at conferences, family stories, memories, quickly-jotted poems, and so much more. It doesn't take me long to find the seed of an idea and start writing. We used to talk to young writers in our workshops about using our notebooks to reach for volume and variety. We hoped they would write every day. We wanted them, over time, to collect entries that could become the seeds of future writing. We encouraged them to change the structure of their writing to include lists, poems, sketches, memories, descriptions, and more. It wasn't long before they discovered the treasure of ideas they had to expand upon.

So today when I began looking through my journal, I found a brief piece that captured my memories of going to the library when I was young. There was library within walking distance from my home. I went there often. The closer I got to the library the quicker my steps would take me. I knew I would come home with a stack of books that I couldn't wait to read.

I loved the smell of the library. It's familiar scent of books and bindings greeted me at the door. I would walk in the door knowing that I had arrived at a place that was sheer pleasure. I spent many quiet hours pulling books from the shelves to see if they were just what I was looking for. The library became a place that was familiar and comforting. I would leave with a stack of books in my bag that would fascinate me and inspire me until I returned to the library for more.

As I reread my journal entry, I noticed this line:

"When I went to the library, I expected books to find me."

So I was thinking about what expectations our children have when they come to school?
Do they expect to be inspired? 
Do they expect to have choices?
Do they expect to have time to wonder?
Do they expect to have time to wander?
Do they expect to have a voice? 
Do they expect to love learning?
I hope so.

We need to be watchful. 
Do our students walk into school with excitement and anticipation for a day of learning?
Do they sense a feeling of comfort because there are people there that really know them?
Do they smile and treat each other with kindness?
Do they love to learn?

I hope we can hear them say:

"When I go to school, I expect to love learning."

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 30 - I Expected Books to Find Me

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Please, Spring.

The bluest sky says spring.
The fresh, green grass shoots upward.
The flowers blossom with joy.

But the cold still plays with me
In the brisk wind
That blows my hair
And reminds me that our part of the earth
Is just not ready for warm breezes.

It saddens me and I shudder.
I am just not patient enough
For spring to come.
I want to abandon my sweater
And feel the warm sun on my skin.

Please spring.
Come to me now.
Bring me joy.

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 29 - Please, Spring.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Some Days Writing is Hard

I am finding it so hard to write today.
Emotions are heavy. So much on my mind.

I have started several posts. I get a few words down and realize I haven't really said anything and cannot concentrate enough to make sense of the words in my head.

I wonder now how often our students feel this way. They are not immune to the heaviest of emotions and the biggest worries. Our students carry them in much the same way we do. Emotions and worries cloud their mind and make it impossible to think clearly. They struggle to get words on the page.

I sit here today with a fresh perspective for writing workshop. Know students well enough to understand that there will be days when writing doesn't come easy. Days when only a few words stumble onto the page. Give them space. Give them time. Understand.

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 28 - Some Days Writing is Hard

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Bookmarks From the Heart

I am fascinated with bookmarks. I have collected some interesting ones over the years. But some of my favorite bookmarks come from the heart. Let me explain.

My mother's generation always sent cards in the mail - birthday cards, anniversary cards, get well cards. Of course, that was when the cards and the postage were inexpensive. It seems like my Mom was either sending cards or getting cards. Once the cards were opened, Mom would stand them up on the shelves in our kitchen - always a nice reminder of the kindness of family and friends. It saddens me that the tradition has gone by the wayside. Cards have become expensive as well as the postage. It is a tradition that is losing ground. 

However, my Mom found a way to re-purpose those cards. She would cut out the prettiest images from the cards into small bookmark shapes. She was a voracious reader and she would always have one of her bookmarks moving along the pages of the book as she read. There was a little basket on the kitchen counter that was always full of her bookmarks. She would be quick to offer a bookmark to those who came to her house with a book in their hand.

And so I continue the tradition.

While fewer cards come in the mail, I always fashion a new bookmark from each card before I recycle it. The joy is two-fold. I have a lovely new book mark and I remember the kindness of the person who sent the card. My bookmarks are in a little basket on my desk.

So if you stop by my house with a book in your hand, I will be sure to offer you one of my bookmarks from the heart. 

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 27 - Bookmarks From the Heart

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Curating a School for Everyone

Children come to school each day as different as snowflakes. I think our responsbility is not to make them all the same when they leave. Our job is to create a learning space where they all can thrive. It's not about restricting their experiences. It's all about expanding their experiences by providing them with what they need to be successful learners and happy children.

I have always felt that school belongs to the children. I dream of school as a place where there are no big people and little people but a place where everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner and where we accomplish more together than we could separately.

We try hard to create classroom environments that support a successful learning community. I want us to celebrate the differences among our students and to make sure we can change the environment when something isn't working for them. As curators of our schools, we need to monitor the environment and change it to meet the needs of each child.

We can't expect a child who has trouble sitting still to overcome what he cannot control. So we mold an environment that matches his needs.

We can't expect a child to read at grade level if she is still struggling to learn basic reading skills. So we alter our instructions as well as the books we make available for her to read.

When a child needs a bit more time to complete work, we give it to them.

When a child struggles with where to sit at lunch and who to sit with, we surround him with buddies who can help him navigate lunchtime.

Instead of trying to change a child to fit the environment, we should be willing and able to flex the environment to fit the child.  Only then, will we have schools where growth is encouraged and learning is fun.

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 26 - Curating School for Everyone

Friday, March 25, 2016

I Hear Their Voices....

I hear their voices...
As they walk into the room.
Stories of after-school adventures
From the day before.

I hear their voices...
As the day unfolds.

I hear their voices...
As we learn together.


I hear their voices...
As we end the day.
See you tomorrows.
Another symphony of voices.

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 25 - I Hear Their Voices

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Late Night Post

A late night post
   on this very busy day.
Drove northward 
   in the early hours.

Hospital visit.
More hugs. 


I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 23 - Motivating Readers - A Lesson From My Mom

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Motivating Readers - A Lesson From My Mom

As my brother and sisters and I grew older, I remember my Mom wanting to do something outside of our home. She got a job as a school librarian at a small Catholic school near our home. She loved books and reading so it seemed like a perfect fit for her. I also remember her taking classes in library science at a nearby university to help her in her work. She did not have a college degree but she took this opportunity very seriously. If she was going to do something, she was going to do it well.

I have one very vivid memory of her time as a librarian and I love her so much for telling it. I am proud to be a daughter of a librarian who loved books and loved children.

Here's what she told me:

One day the principal of the school walked into the quiet library.  She had assumed that she would find a room of children glancing through the shelves of books and reading around library tables. But when she entered the room all she could hear was a quiet room. She was puzzled because she was sure that a class had been assigned library time.

My mom greeted her with a smile and noticed the questioning look on her face as though to say, "Where are the children?".  It wasn't long before a few heads popped out from under one of the library tables and greeted Sister with a smile. Sister was relieved to know they hadn't lost the children.

My mom knew how to motivated children to be readers. She let them read under the library tables! Her routine was well before her time when most students sat in rows of desks all day.  She had her students tucked away and relaxing under the library tables and they were reading!

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 23 - Motivating Readers - A Lesson From My Mom

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What I Know About Myself as a Reader - Part 2

On March 17, I posted 25 things I know about myself as a reader. I continue to add to the list. It's a great exercise reflecting on the reader that I am.

26. I have always wanted to read Anna Karenina. Someday I will tackle it.
27. I like to read maps. Have always been fascinated by them.
28. I love infographics. That's reading too!
29. I can't read in bed. I fall asleep!
30. I usually read only one book at a time.
31. I read/watch the weather report every day. 
32. I love to read and collect quotes. 
33. I get car sick if I read in the car.
34. I like quiet places to read. 
35. I was a Nancy Drew fan when I was young and I collect vintage Nancy Drew books 
36. I need to carefully read directions when I am putting something together. Can't put something together without them.
37. My mom was a great reading model for me.
38. I loved walking to the library when I was young.
39. I love collecting bookmarks.
40. I like to collect quotes about reading.
41. I like free form poetry.
42. I started reading mysteries again.
43. I get frustrated reading magazines because there are too many advertisements. 
44. I research the flowers and plants I put in my garden.
45. I can never have enough bookcases.
46. I don't like reading comics so it is hard for me to read graphic novels.
47. I have favorite words like "serindipity", " persimmon", etc.
48. I love to read with my grandchildren.
49. I can never have enough picture books.
50. I sometimes get to the bottom of a page and have no idea what I read.

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 22-What I Know About Myself as a Reader - Part 2

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Way We Treat Others

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.
 ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

This quote has guided me in all aspects of life. When we treat our family, our friends and others we meet along the way like they already are what they ought to be, the world is a better place.

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 21 - The Way We Treat Others

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It's Hard

This morning I was getting ready to go to the gym. I am on a quest to get healthy. I have changed my eating patterns and adopted an exercise schedule. I know those will get me where I want to be. It will just take time. 

My husband is my cheerleader. Countless of times over the last few months he has said, "I'm proud of you." My trainer, who is also my cheerleader,  pushes me hard but believes in me. He knows I will try hard and won't back down from a challenge.

But today was a hard. I wasn't excited about going to the gym and working out today. I made it there and got in a pretty good workout. I am glad I went.

But on the way home I was thinking about those kids for whom school is hard.
Maybe academics are hard. Maybe friendships are hard. Maybe just getting to school is hard.
Do they wake up in the morning and say to themselves, "I just can't do it today."
Do they go through the motions of getting ready for school but are so tempted to just go back to bed?
Do they hesitate as they head out the door, pausing to look for a way out of going to school?
What is the voice in their head saying? 
Are they coaching themselves with an uplifting message or falling for words of defeat?

Who are their cheerleaders? 
Hopefully, they have parents who encourage and support them - parents who celebrate what the child accomplishes. Parents who recognize and appreciate what their children can do.

And what about their teachers? 
I think back to my years of teaching and hope that I was the kind of teacher who encouraged those for whom school was hard. 

Did I recognize those children whose feet dragged as they entered the classroom?
Did I appreciate why some kids just couldn't stay on task when the work was hard?
Did I greet students with a positive attitude and kind words of encouragement?
Did I position myself near those children who felt alone when the work got hard?
Did I think about revising my instructional strategies for those students who needed to learn another way?
Did I support them with encouraging words?

I know I tried. Hopefully, I succeeded in being the cheerleader I needed to be.

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 20 - It's Hard 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Boy Under the Table

-->"The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around."
 ~ Leo Buscaglia

Educators have amazing opportunities to touch the lives of children. Countless times each day connections are made and relationships are built just because two people come together in ways that often require us to see things through one another's eyes.

I remember a time that could have been a disaster had I not stopped to see things from a child's perspective. It was the beginning of the school year. It's an exciting time for teachers and children. But all the changes can be daunting for our students. Most of them are excited to come back to school but dealing with a new classroom, new teacher, the new routines and new friends can put them on shaky ground.

One day, I was called down to a kindergarten class because a child was not cooperating and being fairly disagreeable. His emotions were out of control and he was highly frustrated and impulsive. My goal was to calm him down and figure out just what led to his state of mind. I knew that finding out what may have led to this situation was so much more important than jumping in and trying to change and control the behavior.
The boy’s class was on its way outdoors to observe a tree for science class. I asked him if he would stay inside to calm down a little and talk with me. He parked himself under a table, arms crossed, and seemed to prepare for a battle.

 It was clear that he had no intention of talking with me or changing the way he felt. There were long moments of silence. He was still too frustrated to be logical or cooperative, but I waited and slowly he began to talk with me. He shared his frustrations and I listened. I wanted to understand what was causing him to act out. I made it apparent that I was very interested in what he had to say.
In a few minutes, he got the idea that I wasn't there to make his day more miserable, but that I was genuinely trying to understand him. We spent the next 15 minutes talking. He stayed under the table as I sat on the floor nearby trying to make eye contact.

 In just a few minutes, I found out what was making him so unhappy and learned about what he liked. But more importantly, we connected.
The class returned from observing a tree outside and went out for a few minutes of recess. I watched him and two other boys play soccer. When the children came inside, they spread out around the classroom with books for a few moments of independent reading. He chose a book about bugs and I sat with him. We looked through it together, and I invited him to come to my office to read with me sometime.

  He seemed calmer and I prepared to leave.

In those last few minutes together, I think he nearly reached for my hand. In our time together, I learned some things about him and he learned some things about me. We could build on the friendship we began that day. 
Throughout the school year, I had more opportunities to spend time with this child. He has some challenges, but he was a most fascinating child. In small ways, I hoped I helped him find his place in our school.

Children will react to change in many ways. Some days are just not easy for them. Their lives are as complicated as our own lives are. Taking the time to make a connection is powerful. Our conversations with students can make all the difference in the world.  There just might be a student out there today who is waiting for someone like us to come along.

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 19 - The Boy Under the Table