Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Slice of Life - It's dead, but wait...!

It's dead.  It sat in the corner for months, dead.  It probably died about the time school started and I just let it sit there.  I love the container it's in so I would celebrate the container and ignore the dead.  Lucky for me, the dead didn't stink.  It just turned brown and brittle.  I did slightly morn the brown and brittle dead only because when I received the beautiful green plant with orange blossoms it was unique and special.  It was an end of the year gift from a student.  However, I know if you neglect a plant and it doesn't get it's basic necessities it will die.  

I've been decorating the house for the holidays and yes both sets of parents are coming so perking things up becomes fun and a priority.  Perking things up really means get rid of the dead plant.  I decided I wanted to save the container I love.  To save the container I began to remove the brown and brittle plant.  I couldn't believe what I saw, there was green shoots just peeping through the soil?  They looked like daffodils or tulips in the spring.  

I reread the information tag and the plant is a perennial which means it will return year after year but it's a house plant so I didn't expect it to completely die.  I really think the plant has a bulb structure which means it would die off completely and return.  I like having plants and truth be told my classroom plants seem to do better than my home plants.  My students help water them and having plant support might be what keeps things alive or bring them back from a wilt-y state.

As I uncovered my fresh new green sprouts, I reflected on a few things.  If you look below the surface, you can find and/or see growth.  Plants are forgiving and students are too.   Green sprouts bring hope and looking for the small signs in my classroom can and will bring hope for each student and what they need.  I just need to look below the surface and notice closely to discover green sprouts to nurture.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for fostering and encouraging this writing community.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Slice of Life - rethinking a family tradition

An unexpected response came my way when I asked my youngest, "Do you want to do our holiday book a day tradition?"  She replied with certainty, "Yes!"  I was a bit caught off guard because I remember last year her interest seemed to diminish a bit as the twenty four days were passing.  I wanted to be realistic and realize my girls are growing up, things change, and it's okay if we have one less thing to do.  She is the youngest of three girls.  She is in middle school now as a sixth grader.  She warmed my heart she wanted to be my reading partner each night for twenty four days.

We've been doing a holiday book as an advent calendar since she was born.  When her oldest sister was little I didn't want an advent calendar with chocolate.  Candy was very limited in our house.  I didn't want an advent calendar with trinket toys resembling a fast food drive in kids meal treat.  Those types of meals never happened in our house.   Then one day I read about wrapping twenty four holiday books and opening one a night, perfect!

I didn't question her answer but began thinking about how could I keep her interest from diminishing this year.  I had to assess our current collection.  Our collection of holiday books is far more than just twenty four.  Our holiday book collection has fun stories and stories that retell the Christmas story.  We have simple rhyming stories and some stories that more involved picture book stories.  We have heard these stories many times over the years.  As I reflected about keeping her interest, I thought about my classroom library.  I concluded I wanted to include some favorites.  I wanted to get some new titles.  I wanted to include various genres; poetry, nonfiction, fantasy, realistic fiction, and biography-ish titles.  I also wanted to include titles with bigger messages and explanations for different traditions.  I'm really excited to have a reading partner for the next twenty two days.  

Since I wrapped the titles before writing this post I hope you will follow our reading journey via twitter @mandyrobek and consider joining me using the hashtag #holidaybookaday.  I specifically chose this hashtag so anyone, celebrating any holiday could share their reading lives.  This could be a neat way to expand our reading lives and global thinking.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering this writing community.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Slice of Life - Inflight Thoughts

Inflight Thoughts

Solid lights
Twinkling lights

Sprinkle the ground

Celebrating days of 

Solid lights
twinkling lights

Sprinkle the ground

Celebrating home

I heard a message over and over at NCTE.  If you teach ______ then you need to be a ______.  If you teach reading, you need to be a reader.  If you teach writing, you need to be a writer.  If you teach poetry, you need to be a poetry reader.  I've been trying to write personally using digital tools on the go but what I'm discovering is bigger pieces are great on my laptop or my iPad.  It's the little nuggets during my day and little day to day snippets I'm not good at capturing digitally.  When I was packing for NCTE I decided to take a notebook and start writing things, anything that came to mind.  It worked a bit.  I filled 6 pages, the beginning of a writer's notebook.  This was a piece I captured while flying home and revised a smidge tonight.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering a writing community.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Slice of Life - A Rough Goodbye

I didn't know
what laid ahead

A rough goodbye?
I can handle
A rough goodbye?
I have experience
A rough goodbye?
We'll bounce back

I didn't know 
what laid ahead

A rough goodbye
Filled with screams
A rough goodbye
Filled with physical turns
A rough goodbye
Filled with unwanted embrace

I didn't know 
what laid ahead

A rough goodbye
Requires waiting
A rough goodbye
Requires love
A rough goodbye
Requires safety

I now know 
I can only hope
what works for my own child
might work for another.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering a writing community.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Celebrate this Week - Perspective Shift

Today I am celebrating, a Perspective Shift.  I was chatting, via texting to my friend Cathy Mere and our conversation went like this

Thank you Cathy for helping me breathe, let my shoulders down, and try to enjoy a bit more where I am right now.  Our conversation started about something completely different but I think there was a plan for it to end like this.  Friends know just what you need, sometimes without knowing it.

Thank you Ruth, for supporting us in finding the positive in our busy lives.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Slice of Life - Crosswalks and Upright Ants

It was a smooth drive.  I had plotted out just the right amount of time.  There was the threat of rain far off in the distance but right above there was a smidge of sun trying to burst through the gray clouds.  I got off the highway and my on time travel plans were changed.

They were everywhere!  Crosswalks.  Crosswalks filled like a swarm of bees.  No, they weren't bees because they weren't buzzing or moving very fast.  Crosswalks filled with upright ants.  Yes, tall upright ants were filling the crosswalks.  I felt like I was in the middle of an ant farm or an ant colony that was relocating.  I would drive my van a small distance only to come to another crosswalk.  I began envisioning these upright ants carrying mounds of crumbs and scraps on their backs.  Then I realized I was falling a little bit behind in my journey and started to get frustrated.  These ants then became pillars in a pinball arcade game but that didn't really matter to them.  A few times I got lucky and made them wait for me.  It was at this point I heard that little arcade bell go off in my head.  Yea, Mandy - one for you! and more cheers for traffic lights.  The upright ants actually pay attention to traffic light signals, I could finally breathe for a moment.  I found my destination and was grateful I was off the road and could rest for a bit.  Then my college freshman daughter got in the van and I realized we had to leave campus.  Lucky for me, I knew a different path out of campus and realized there were less crosswalks which meant less upright ants to dodge and driving was a bit easier.  I've already plotted a better road path into campus and learned a few things today about navigating campus during the week.  There are lessons to learn everywhere we go.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting and supporting our writing community.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Slice of Life - Help Needed

On Tuesday afternoon (of last week) at dismissal, a little boy was telling me he was confused with a part he was reading in his book.  I mentioned we could meet tomorrow and talk about it.  We could have a reading meeting.  I had been wanting to conference with this little boy about his book selection for about a week but was torn because his reading behaviors had improved with this book.  He had stamina, focus, and was leading a readerly life by taking the book back and forth from home and school for reading.  He told me his dad had forgotten about him and he just kept on reading because he was in the reading zone not just one night but two nights in a row.  Wednesday came and at the end of the day he reminded me about the reading meeting and I apologized for forgetting and we could do it tomorrow.  Thursday came and I had to fit in a bunch of content so our reading time turned into a small research project and our reading meeting was postponed again.  We didn't have school on Friday.

Monday came and the conversation was a faint memory in my mind until at the end of reading workshop this cute little boy came over and said, "Mrs. Robek you forgot about my reading meeting."  I gushed with apologies and promised tomorrow.  He replied, "I will write you a note."  I soon received a little yellow post it note and in black sharpie which we use to make this brighter and stronger it said - Meeting with Nathan.  I placed it right by my rocking chair in hopes it would help me uphold my end of the teacher - student bargain.  It did!  As I was doing status of the class, when it was Nathan's turn to share what he was reading and where he was, I waved the little post it note to him and he just beamed that I had remembered.  

I am grateful Nathan saw I needed help.  I'm not proud I forgot for a few days or let the schedule of school prevent me from stopping the first time he asked to chat about his book.  However, he persevered and with persistence made a plan to help me remember.  We had a delightful conversation about capital letters within dialogue and how to keep track of who is talking.  I am thinking more about ways readers can request a conference based on their needs, when they feel the need for a conference.  Reader's have needs to be addressed when they arise, not when I have time in my schedule.  It looks like I have more to balance.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering a writing community each Tuesday.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Celebrate This Week - Understanding

Today I am celebrating, taking the time to understand. 

Last weekend, I confirmed the resource I was using for my math instruction was falling short.  My Slice of Life this week shared when I confirmed what my gut was starting to feel.  I left that post indicating I needed to shop around but before you shop around you really should understand what you need and what you have.  I've had nine weeks to get to know my students, I know what I have.    I know I have a plethora of resources that promote problem solving, application of math knowledge, and promote mathematical practices.  What I didn't understand completely was/is the Common Core Mathematical Standards.  Today I had a 3.5 hour lunch with a wise friend who is retired, consulting and understands mathematics.  She not only understands mathematics, she understands how the teaching of mathematics to achieve rigor and center mathematics in the mathematical practices with it being student centered.  Taking the time to understand requires time and hard thinking.  Taking the time to understand is going to change my instruction, my students daily work and create mathematicians.  I'm so excited about taking the time to understand, I can't wait for Monday!

Thank you Ruth, for supporting us in finding the positive in our busy lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Slice of Life - It Doesn't Fit!

Stretching and pulling, this doesn't feel right.  It doesn't seem to be fitting but let me try again with another fluff.  It still doesn't fit and I check the tag on my brand new flannel sheets, it's a queen size and I asked for king size set.  I reflected on my first shopping trip to the new Target store around the corner and realized I asked the kind Target worker if they had a set in a king size but never confirmed the size when they got a package for me from the back.  I had already washed the sheet set.  I had already thrown away the packaging but these were not going to fit my needs.  I tried to pack up the sheets the best I could with the receipt and the wrapper.  I needed to return what wasn't working and get what I needed.  That's why they make different size sheets, one size doesn't fit all bed sizes.

I've been wrestling with my math instruction lately and I realized it's like that first set of sheets.  It's falling short.  It doesn't fit my students needs all the time.  I've been using a resource my district purchased because I've changed grade levels and needed help getting my feet wet in second grade.  I needed to see my queen size set of sheets falling short and not fitting my bed to confirm what I've always known about prepackaged teaching resources.  They fall short and one has to shop around to find the right size.  I think flannel sheet shopping was easier, the king set was right on the shelf the next day when I made my return.  Easy isn't always best and I'm ready to shop around for what's a good fit mathematically. 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting and fostering a writing community.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Celebrate This Week - Possibilities

This week I am celebrating possibilities.

I've been back in school for a week and half with students and I've already had Curriulum Night.  I've conducting All About Me  and Reading Interviews.  Then I had the students write answers for me to surveys about math, writing, and word study.  I had these out for parents to view when we gathered to learn more about second grade and the hopes the students and I have for the year.  This information has given me a lot of insight to my group of new friends, possibilities are ahead for us.

I also did something a bit different this year, I stepped back and didn't have volunteer sign ups or a donation list ready.  I was honest my home life has been busy and we would be online with those things in a week.  I appreciated their patience and no one seemed bothered they weren't ready to go.  The possibility of putting something on pause is okay.

I am also celebrating for the first time the possibilities of higher education for one of our daughters.  She went a couple of days early to assist with move in day and we couldn't be more excited to how she embraces opportunities and possibilities.  She's off to a great start!

Thank you Ruth, for supporting us in finding the positive in our busy lives.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Celebrate This Week - Second Grade!

Today I am celebrating second grade!

I have 20 new friends.  7 friends are new to me.  13 friends and I spent kindergarten together and seeing them now two years later is really fun.  Second graders are independent.  Second graders know how to "do" school.  Second graders can work quietly.  Second graders can verbalize higher level thinking.  Second graders can read independently and write lots of sentences.  Second graders are eager to learn multiplication and read books.  I'm eager to spend the year with them.

On a side note, I am less tired mentally and physically with just one class of students who come every day all day long.  Every day is new and different and continues from the day before.  Life is good, after just one week.  I might just keep singing, "celebrate good times, come on!"

Thanks Ruth for reminding me to stop and capture the positive from the week with your Celebrate This Week community.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Celebrate This Week

So, excited to be back and celebrating this week with Ruth Ayers.  
Thank you for hosting, Ruth.

Today I wanted to celebrate taking a month off from blogging and give a sneak peak to what is ahead in my writing journey.  I've thought about writing and realize shorter post will allow for more writing.  Also, having a monthly plan/outline can guide my writing.  I hope to share more later about this.  I've studied some blogs I follow outside the education word and discovered some features I like and think I can carryover to my own format.  I hope you can stop by and join me this month.  While walking on vacation this week I dictated a list of posts I hope to write during a month.

Authors New to Me
Classroom Lens
Familiar Authors, New Story
Math Monday
Old Friends Have Returned
Out and About
Professional Learning
Series for Second Grade

Writing Communities I hope to participate with each month

Celebrate This Week
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge
Poetry Friday
Slice of Life

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Slice of Life - Renewal

I just spent a couple of fabulous days at a writing retreat and reflecting on renewal.  This ended an unusual month for me, with opportunities that took me away from my girls.  My summers are usually spent with much more home time and time with the girls.  

As I returned home and thought about renewal, these are things I discovered.  I have fun adult books waiting for me to read.  I have a play/craft room that needs revamping.  I have yarn waiting for me.  I have fabric that wants to be a scarf or a skirt or a bag.  I have some online story/scrapbooking classes to do.  I have photos to organize and writing to do.  I have running to figure out again and pilates to return to my mornings.  I have thinking about this space to process.  I have a new classroom to set up.  So, in an effort to really enjoy and embrace renewal I'm going to take a vacation from blogging and return August 1st.  I will stop by July 10th with a special announcement.  

You will be able to continue my #bookaday reading via instagram and twitter.  
Enjoy your July.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Celebrate This Week

Today I'm joining Ruth Ayers and Celebrate this Week.

I've been a little absent lately around here and I want to celebrate why.

I'm fortunate to work in a district that supports continuing education through our salary advancement pay scale.  I just completed my Masters plus 45 hours on Friday.  During the past two weeks I've spent 7 days in classes, wrote my last required reflection paper, and I do have some mixed feelings about this.  When I graduated with my Masters I was pregnant with our first daughter and clueless about being a parent.  I also felt I didn't want to have several hours or lots of hours of just randomness because all of that randomness could equal another degree.  Well, N came and I couldn't leave her.  

Then, I discovered classes being offered that were current, relevant to my teaching and peaked my interested.  I remember leaving N to learn about Reggio Emilia and I do believe that made me a better parent.  There are times I love being a parent and a teacher and think each role has enriched the other.  Through the years I've dabbled and taken classes, always working it around what the girls had going on.  I've taken classes within my district quite often because the course is free and relevant to the goals and missions we have.  I've taken classes outside the district that peak my interest and stimulate my mind either by the topic or to be with my friends from other districts.  I've spent a lot of personal money on course work.  I had a burst of focus to get my Masters plus 30.  I realized a burst of focus had benefits and with another burst I could get to 45 hours. I've timed this last burst just before our college bills start coming in.

I've had fleeting thoughts this week about not having another degree in something that would let me take a different path in education and then I stop.  The path I took allowed me to be choosy about the classes I invested my time in. The path I took allowed me to work around my daughter's lives.  The path I took allowed me to probably have an easier course work load than if I was at a university.  So, yes today I am celebrating continuing education and choosing a path that let me find balance or attempt balance between home and school.

It feels great to say I don't have to take another class or write another paper or read another book as an assignment but the reality is, I'm a life long learner and I will probably still be reading, writing, reflecting, and you might see me in a class again.  I wove more celebrations than I intended to into this piece, writing brings surprises.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Slice of Life - Sharing the Journey

I spent today and yesterday in a class titled, TI in the Cloud.  Day one was spent learning about Schoology and day two was spent learning about Google Drive.  The course was designed really well.  Knowledge was presented in a mini lesson format with visuals and computers opened for participants to be working and trying things out.  As students, we listened but conversations were allowed softly at many times.  Not only were we trying to do things as it was presented we had many small mini work sessions during the day to do what we were learning.  Then in the afternoon we had a big chunk of time to do the work needed for the class project.  The best part was the instructors availability to teach and meet each student's needs, as they did the work.  The best learning happens while learners are doing, discovering, and making mistakes.  This wonderful format repeated itself for the second day.  

I went home the first day feeling energized because I felt great as a student.  I went home the first day feeling drained and uncertain.  I had to process what I was learning, play around a little more, and define the purpose and function of these two tools.  I knew going back for day two I needed a friend to bounce ideas of off, to help me process what I was thinking.  Collaboration and being with people is important for learning.  I found my friend.  The seat next to her was empty and I would have to say we had a grand time together.  

She went home last night too and worked in Schoology.  We helped each other process and think about our purpose, organization, and the how to of each.  We tried things out for each other.  We jumped off course a bit at times to work on where we were with our knowledge and then got back right on track with the class.  We got out early from class but stayed to wrap up a few things we were trying.  I'm so glad I have a friend on this journey with me.  

Reversing roles can be very productive.  I'm going to be thinking about the process, conditions for learning, student engagement, and discussions.  Sharing the journey with someone seemed to elevate the learning and work done today.  It was fun having someone to share my excitement when things worked and looked the way I wanted them to.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Celebrate this Week

Today I'm joining Ruth Ayers and Celebrate this Week.

I just can't resist the opportunity to spend time with my local blogging friends.  I love receiving an email suggesting we gather for breakfast and shop for books.    I know summer is near when the invite comes.  I know when the day arrives, we are in summer mode.  It's fun to talk about summer plans and share snippets of our lives.  I'm grateful to be included with this group and today I am celebrating all the wonderful book advice they gave me.  They were able to think about first graders and what they are reading when they end the year.   I had suggestions from third grade teachers who know where they need to go.  I was looking for newer characters and books in a series to help foster more reading.  I came home with Baby Mouse, Squish, Andy Shane, Bink and Gollie, to name a few.

As you can imagine, being in the same bookstore with this fine group of readers could be and is dangerous.  A couple of times suggestions were coming to me from other aisles and across the room.  This was interesting the majority suggested a series of three books as a read aloud for second grade and a librarian that was with us was not in favor.  So much not in favor, the rejection was made from across the store.  I didn't buy the book and thought I must check it out from the library first.  I am celebrating such kindness as I figure out what might interest a second grade reader.


Thanks to

Mary Lee and Franki from A Year of Reading
Karen and Bill from Literate Lives,
Tony from Tony's Notebook
Katie from Book Groupie

for allowing me to celebrate friendship and keep those book suggestions coming.

I'm also celebrating Donalyn Miller's #bookaday reading challenge this summer.  I've envied teachers in previous summers and loved following what everyone was reading, often gathering ideas for school and/or for one of my three daughters.  I was at the public library this week and decided I could join #bookaday and focus on finding books just right for second grade readers.  You can find out what I'm reading daily by joining me on twitter or instagram, links to the right.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Slice of Life - Slices All Around

When one steps back with a big to do list and several events on their plate one has to know when to stop something and take a break.  I'm so glad I did just that these past three weeks.  My life has been a whirlwind of joyous moments and busy to dos.  When I thought about returning today, I thought about not returning.  Come on, vacations are good but I made a commitment and wanted to keep my word about joining my Slice of Life community today.  When I thought about one slice for today, truly a small moment my mind raced with several.  Sometimes writers make lists to capture seed ideas to pursue further.  Sometimes these seed ideas turn into bigger pieces and sometimes they don't.   I hope by sharing some of my small moments while I was away, we can catch up.

1. High School Graduation - teary eyed but didn't cry.
2. Middle School Graduation - cried.
3. Fifth Grade Graduation - didn't cry, oldest sat there elbowing me.
4. Cleaned and packed my room - I'm teaching second grade next year!
5. Spring cleaning - painted my fireplace mantel twice.
6. Family and friends came to help w/ grad party prep, thank goodness.
7. Softball games - double headers are long
8. Grad party took a lot of preparation and patience - I heard, Mom a lot
9. Absolutely beautiful - weather, setting, details, food, friends, family, and fun
10.  Exhausted for a couple of days, getting back on summer track!

It's good to be back and maybe my list of ten needs one more -

11. I got an OSU Mom t-shirt from my daughter, before grad party, I cried.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Slice of Life - Slowing down a beating heart.

My heart beats a bit faster, right now.

The end of the year brings lots to do in a teacher's world.  We are celebrating our nonfiction writing and have been collaborating with our art and music teacher to create a sharing performance for parents.  We've used water colors and black sharpies to illustrate our gorilla research books.  I am holding special reading meetings with each student and celebrating their reading growth using the Developmental Reading Assessment.  We are working on number sense and fluidly making arrangements for ten.  Then there is all the teacher paperwork behind the scenes to complete.  We have just four days together and I'm feeling a lot of, we aren't done yet.

However, my heart beats a bit faster, right now for other reasons.

My oldest is graduating from high school on Saturday.  We just did our senior photos tonight.  Thank goodness for some dental work progress and the age of digital editing and sharing.  My middle daughter is wrapping up one softball season to start another and she is graduating from middle school the following week.  My youngest is graduating from elementary school the same day next week.   I have moments when my heart slows down and I'm caught off guard, fighting tears.  Tears are just a way to release a lot of goodness.

I've realized I need to find ways to slow down my beating heart.

1.  Hold our graduation party a week after school is out for me and enjoy our family and friends who are coming from out of town and in town.

2.  Move 11 year old birthday party a week and half past the actual birthday, after the graduation party.

3.  Take a blogging vacation.  I'll be back June 3rd.  I might stop by via twitter and instagram but it will be less.

Have a great three weeks everyone, and enjoy this time of year.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting our writing community.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Slice of Life - Laminators Are Like Life

I had a parent volunteer in my room this morning and I was explaining to her how to use the laminator for postcards we are getting ready to send to Rwanda, Africa.  She had never laminated before so I had my hands going to help show how the rollers move and you slide in the paper between.  I think my speech probably started to speed up as I imagined the rollers going fast.  

I personally like to laminate everything on slow.  I think it creates a better seal.  I was sharing this with her and told her my best tip is to put the laminator on pause, just stop it so it doesn't keep rolling.  When it keeps rolling, I feel like I have to go so fast and then I end of wasting lamination because I can't line everything up.  I shared with her it's really great because you can stop and put things on pause to set up another batch  of cards to be laminated.  She commented to me, "this sounds like my life.  A pause stop button would be great."

Her comparison was perfect.  Life is busy and sometimes we do feel like we are rolling from one thing to another.  We all need a stop/pause button to realign and not be wasteful.   

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting and fostering our writing community.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Slice of Life - Hey, Low Fuel!

Today I read two beautiful and important words!  Low fuel.  You can read my slight frustration over the placement of my gas gauge in a previous post, I love my Honda, but not my gas gauge!  One week ago today I got a new van.  We upgraded our van and yes, if you live in a minivan world we got the one with the HondaVac system.  You read that right, I have a vacuum in my minivan.  It will come in very handy but today I found a feature I think that is equally handy.  When my gas gauge got low, the center information screen read LOW FUEL in large orange letters.  Where I keep my right hand on the steering wheel blocks the view of the normal gas gauge in the bottom right corner.  Having this notification clear, crisp and simple is perfect.  Having this notification right in the center of my view is perfect.  Now let's hope when I try out my HondaVac system I give it a perfect review.  


When I saw this photo I thought these two words could relate to teaching this year.  It's been a hard year around the country as people figure out the Common Core and what that means for children and our instruction.  It's been a hard year in the world of assessments, at any grade level.  It's been a hard year in Ohio with Student Learning Objectives and increased teacher evaluations.  It's been a hard year with budgets cut yet everyone expecting the status quo to remain the same.  Maybe just recognizing sometimes we are running on low fuel and we need to refill is necessary.  The HondaVac system is a perk in my new minivan.  I think we need to make sure we all know the perks in our lives and make sure we take time to refill.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for hosting and nudging us to capture a bit of life - fostering a writing community.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Celebrate This Week

Sometimes we have to stop and celebrate just one day.  Birthdays are a gift and each year is a blessing.  So, today I am sharing goodness throughout my actual birthday.  I'm so glad it's a day with my family and spring has arrived.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Celebrate This Week

I'm in!  I'm here and I do have things to celebrate!  I wasn't holding out when Ruth started Celebrate This Week.  I was actually sitting in the presentation she was giving when this little seed started to rumble this past fall.  I've watched from afar, I've read what others are celebrating weekly, and yet I didn't jump right in.  Fast forward to today and I can't be afar anymore.  I ended my spring break trip a day early and we drove straight home from Florida to spend today with Ruth and my Literacy Connection colleagues.  As I listen to Ruth today, I know celebration is purposeful, needed, and necessary in many aspects of my life.  Here are a few celebrations from my week.

1.  Spending time in temperatures double of Ohio right now, surrounded by sunshine has nourished my soul.

2.  Spending time with my immediate family without schedules and free choice all day long was fun.

3.  Watching my daughters and husband interact with my in-laws brought smiles and laughter to everyone.  Having grandparents far away is sad, so our time together is precious.

4.  I got to read 5 books!

5.  I re-created the habit of walking each morning and yes got up today to walk my two dogs in colder temperatures.

6.  Ending my spring break with an energizing group of teachers brought together by The Literacy Connection and the amazing Ruth Ayers will guide the last seven weeks of school and what might come my way.

Monday, March 31, 2014

SLICE 2014 - 31 of 31 - Thank You

This year I made a plan to slice about my teaching life Monday - Friday in hopes of finding things that make teaching sparkle right now.  I worried this might be hard because teaching is hard right now but it wasn't.  I was able to listen more intently and observe more intently, finding a sparkle most days.  I also think my slices this year brought a bit more of a reflective voice.  Sometimes in my blogging life, I'm not sure what to post and slicing brought a fresh new look to my blogging writing.   Slicing every day was easier than I thought, even if it was getting late in the evening I knew I wanted to stay strong.  I really enjoyed reading slices from this community and wish I had the time to read everything, everyone was willing to put in print.  I really appreciated checking in and finding comments from readers.  Feedback does bring a smile to an author, thank you.  Thank you for reading pieces from my heart and being part of my journey.  Until next year, enjoy and embrace what comes your way.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

SLICE 2014 - 30 of 31 Quote Collecting App

"Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths."

Etty Hillesum

I can't remember where I got this quote from this week.  It could of been from a daily email I receive or maybe it was on twitter but what does matter is I reflected on these words.  These words were important to receive this week as I tried to stay focused on a normal work and home schedule, while anticipating spring break.  Deep breaths are important for each of us to take.  I've discovered as a writer I have another format I like to use.  I like to anchor my Choice Literacy writing to a quote of a professional mentor, a text that has guided my own thinking the reader is about to read.  I think much of what we do as educators is tweaking someone else's thinking to make it work for us.  We are stronger when we stand on the shoulders of others and with others.  

When I discovered I like to use quotes to jumpstart my articles, I remembered collecting quotes when I was younger, in a notebook.   I wanted to start collecting quotes in one place again and found a great app to use.  Quotebook is easy.  You can copy a quote from twitter, a blog, or a website and paste it in the quote space.  You can also type it in the quote text box.  Then you can add the author, the source, give it a 5 star rating, and add tags.  To keep life simple, I add my quote, the author, and right now my tagging system is really easy; life or education.  I'm going to think about more ways to incorporate quotes within the writing I do.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

SLICE 2014 - 29 of 31 Why Winn Dixie?

We've arrived and when I am in the south I love to visit the grocery store Winn Dixie.  There's something charming about going.  It really has nothing to do with the quality of the groceries, the layout of the store, or the customer service.  I go in hopes of finding a stray dog.  A stray dog who is lost and making a mess inside the grocery store.  A stray dog who might need a good home and fall in love with me at first sight.  A stray dog who helps people heal and connect with other people.  I never seem to find this stray dog on my yearly journey to the south but I do always think about  one of favorite books Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.  I also love the movie version of this book and my family doesn't appreciate how many times I could watch this movie.  

I had my oldest daughter with me tonight when we ran in for a few things to get us through a late dinner and breakfast.  She asked me why I loved going here so much.  I shared with her what I shared with you above and she said,  "Mom, that is silly.  If there was a book called, Because of Kroger would you shop at Kroger?"  She made me chuckle and the answer is probably not.

Friday, March 28, 2014

SLICE 2014 - 28 of 31 - At 4pm

At 4pm 
spring break starts.
If you are looking for me
I might be,
riding in the car
for a very long time.

At 4pm 
spring break starts.
If you are looking for me
I might be,
picking my first
vacation reading.

At 4pm 
spring break starts.
If you are looking for me
I might be,
trying out 
my new running shoes.

At 4pm 
spring break starts.
If you are looking for me
I might be,
relaxing in the sun.

At 4pm 
spring break starts.
If you are looking for me
I might be,
steeping my new
blueberry pineapple ice tea.

At 4pm 
spring break starts.
If you are looking for me
I might be,
writing about 31 Things.

I shared this format for writing earlier this week, borrowed from my friend Cathy.  I think as writers we need to find out formats that work for us and then play around with the words and phrasing.  It was fun to think about changing this format to fit my new adventures that lay ahead.  31 Things is an online course I bought and never quite worked on from Big Picture Scrapbooking.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

SLICE 2014 - 27 of 31 The Arts...

Today, I had the pleasure of watching our fifth graders practice a performance they had put together to share with their families this evening.  Bringing all four classes together for just the second time had some kinks to work through.  That's part of the learning process and preparation for sharing.  I was then blessed to watch the fifth graders tonight and WOWZA, what a difference.  

There's something to be said for watching students share what they have learned and enjoyed creating.  Our music teacher guided each class in writing their own music for drums and xylophones.  She then had each class put together small skits that had an overarching idea.  That takes energy, coordination, and patience.  They had visuals projected on a screen and video of their classroom learning playing while each class transitioned.  She worked with our art teacher to create some props and tie in to an art them with student created Picasso like pieces part of the storyline.  Through art the students thought about color and emotions they wanted to portray.  I'm so pleased it went well for these two staff members and only hope parents understand or think about the thinking and labor that went into planning this.

As a parent, I was reminded throughout the show how important the arts are for many students.  It takes courage to speak and perform in front of others.  Some students are musically inclined.  This type of performance tonight was all about engagement and creativity.  Two big motivators for learning.  I watched my own daughter in a small skit with a good amount of speaking parts.  She projected her voice with such confidence and looked like a natural on that stage.   I wish events like this weren't just once a year.  I am happy she has the opportunity to have music twice a week and then art for a longer chunk of time, once a week.  It also justified using more music and art in my own classroom.  What a fun way to spend my Thursday night.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SLICE 2014 - 26 of 31 Waiting

I've read a lot of books on parenting over the past 18 years.  I've read books about what to expect before the girls came.  I've read books on what to do that first year over and over.  I've read books on different ages, as they grew.  I've read books about raising girls and sisters.  I've read books on how to talk to your child so they will listen.  I've read books on teenage discipline and habits of effective families.  However, yesterday I realized all of these books never used the word waiting.  We were at a special tooth doctor for a check up that turned into over an hour appointment.  As a parent, we have to wait.  We have to wait while they get themselves dressed and learn self help skills.  We have to wait for various doctor appointments for different reasons.  We have to wait for practices and lessons to start and finish.  We have to wait for them to get in the car.  We have to wait while they make decisions.  While waiting can be hard and something we didn't expect whether you are a parent or not.  Waiting is a natural outcome of relationships and waiting happens if it's just one person.  The word waiting stuck with me today and I realized waiting brings different things to our lives.  Sometimes waiting brings the outcome we want and hope for and sometimes waiting doesn't but either way waiting can strengthen us.


Waiting teaches independence.
Waiting takes patience.
Waiting brings calm.
Waiting brings frustration.
Waiting brings stamina.
Waiting brings persistence.
Waiting brings conversations.
Waiting brings thinking.
Waiting brings silence.
Waiting brings reflection.
Waiting takes time.
Waiting teaches strength.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SLICE 2014 - 25 of 31 Reading Plans are Being Made

Going to the library with spring break in our future was fun.  I had my youngest and oldest daughter with me.  My middle daughter had text me quite a list of books, she wanted.  My youngest had wandered around the upstairs last night and gathered a few books to take with her, probably to make me happy.  Today, she changed that pile to be more meaningful with all new books - three were from the library.  Two of those are the beginning of a series and the other one was a recommendation from her oldest sister.  I was so happy to have my middle daughter just gush over this book when we got home.  Their ages and reading interest vary greatly so hearing them talk about the same book was wonderful.  

My oldest had a friend ask for book titles on our way to the library so she text another friend for some titles.  She hadn't been to the library in quite some time.  Most of her reading is text book related for school.  It was so nice to see her find titles from friends and myself, locate them in the library and have a fun reading plan for spring break.  

My middle daughter has the thickest books, the tallest stack and the largest smile about the books brought home for her.  I found several on her list.  I picked up two titles that were by the same other but different than what she requested and she seemed okay with that.  I made the judgement call to get the sequel to a book she asked for.  I even asked the librarian for a recommendation based on what was in my hands.  Her eyes just lit up when I could barely carry her stack.

Yes, my reading plan is missing.  My kindle fire has two books, turned or turning movie to read.  These are important to read because it helps me connect with my middle daughter.  I'm a smidge late on one title, the movie came out last weekend.  I have a book on there recommended by one friend and another friend blogged she just loved it.  I have a real book or two to bring too!  I have a book to connect with my youngest daughter to borrow from her room.  Lots for friends are buzzing about this title.  My kindle fire has a bunch more books - self help/reflection books, fiction fun titles, and yes a professional book.  I could bring physically books in all of those categories.  I feel like before I ramble off titles here I need to be realistic and make a plan.  One that I can obtain and wouldn't it be fun to surpass?  We will have lots of driving time and I've taught myself to read in the car so there is some good potential reading time either in the car or by the pool.  

If you have any reading advice for my plan let me know, I'd appreciate it.  All fun?  All e book format?  Ebook and physical books?  

Monday, March 24, 2014

SLICE 2014 - 24 of 31 - Pet Direction Highlights

Our pets are staying behind and friends are watching them for the first time.  I left some directions with meals, routines, and behaviors they each have.  I thought it would be fun to write a cliff note version.  These are phrases I'm pulling out I hope they pay attention to.   Good news, our friends love dogs.

tennis balls in her bowl
slowing down how fast she eats

don't feed them human food
she will discovery any she can find

her best command, crate
she can't be trusted off the leash
game of chase
could be a marathon

he loves tennis balls
plays catch 
all day, if allowed

she loves people
she licks dirty dishes in dishwasher
she loves cupboards,
keep closed

Sunday, March 23, 2014

SLICE 2014 - 23 of 31 - Looking Ahead

It's one more week
til spring break.
If you are looking for me
I might be,
teaching kindergarten
goods and services,
practicing retelling the 3bears,
discovering geometry.

It's one more week
til spring break.
If you are looking for me
I might be,
getting a haircut,
sneaking in some polish on my nails,
and finding clothes
too cold to wear here.

It's one more week
til spring break.
If you are looking for me
I might be,
doing laundry,
and praying my dryer gets fixed ASAP,
packing snacks for a long ride.

It's one more week
til spring break.
If you are looking for me
I might be,
writing how to take care of my dogs directions,
buying rabbit food,
and planning books to read.

Thank you my friend Cathy for inspiring my slice!  I just loved your piece of writing.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

SLICE 2014 - 22 of 31 Collecting Family Quotes

"Oooo, invite me to that!" is followed by some giggles and my youngest daughter sitting with me at the kitchen island.  I just announced I was going to lick the bowl from making chocolate no bake cookies and she decided to find the closest stool and grab the second spoon in the pot.  I think we need to work on her fraction work because it certainly wasn't a fair share situation.  

Posterity is an app I like to use to capture quotes from family members.  Each family member has their own notebook.  Each one actually looks like an opened notebook.  You can use a photo to personalize the cover of each one.  Each notebook has a button to let you view all quotes or add a new one.  When you add a new one, you type in the text, pick a date, and if you like, you can add a picture to the quote.  You can also share quotes with friends and family.

Here are some I've collected in the past few months.
S- Man plans.  God laughs.
N- It's going to be like Hunger Games with guacamole.
A - The brain only has 7 spots for short term memory.  He gave us 10 vocal words.
B - Ooo, invite me to that!

I love looking back at previous quotes and hope to collect more.

Friday, March 21, 2014

SLICE 2014 21 of 31 Professional Stimulation

Professional stimulation.  
Two words that jumped to my mind when I woke up this morning.  

Life is busy teaching full time, raising a family, and completing report cards while dreaming about sunny Florida.   Somehow, within this week I have managed to attend dinner with friends one evening to talk about technology.  I adore this group of local friends who all teach outside my district.  I seem to fit right in with them, so much they forget where I actually teach.  They shared brilliant projects they were doing and things they were trying with their students.  Many of them teach older students.  They also have a variety of tools within their rooms or building to use.  I listened a lot and hope to be invited back with a bit more to share.  I certainly was inspired.

Another night after school, I attended the second session for a class within my district about global literature.  I love this class.  The professor is a teacher within our district and she loves books as much if not more than I do.  I ordered a book during class and came home to order three more all representative of Africa.  

Tomorrow morning I'm meeting with another instructor to make up a class I had to miss during parent teacher conference for the Literacy Connection.  I really appreciate working with people who are able to help me, when my schedule gets a bit busy.  I can't wait to visit and discuss Celebrating Writers by Ruth Ayers.

I've blogged each night a small slice, too.

Professional stimulation keeps me going.  It feeds my soul when things seem dark.  It's wonderful to find people to talk to about the positive in teaching and how we can learn and grow as educators.  While I always have blogs to read, twitter to check, text messaging to use meeting with people face to face is far better.  I'm glad I found professional stimulation this week because spring break is a week away.