Tuesday, August 28, 2012

soLs: access denied

Slice of Life Stories hosted

This morning I had nothing.  Oh, I had plenty to write about, but nothing that I wanted to write about -- so I waited for the day to bring a story to me that I'd want to share.

Lunchtime rolled around and no ideas were saying, "Pick me!  Write me!  I'm here!"  So, I decided to sit and ponder as I nibbled my pb and j sandwich.  I looked around my classroom noticing that it wasn't looking all neat and tidy like that first day of school and started to type:

And we're off!  School started last Monday with teachers and students arrived ready to go on Wednesday. 
Why is it that once I step foot into school, I'm already feeling behind?
Why is it that I already have a pile starting to grow on my desk and counter?
Why is it that my to-do list is growing exponentially by the day?
Why is it that everything takes so much longer than anticipated? 
This is why teachers feel the nudge push shove to move so quickly through everything.  This is my personal reminder to take a breath.  Enjoy.  Be there.  Smile.  Laugh.  Create new memories and learning. 

I made a few more additions and changes, clicked save, and my blogger site disappeared. I waited and then the dreaded district "access denied" screen appeared due to personal blog content.

"What the . . .?  Access denied?  No!"  I questioned aloud.  I ran down the hall to our tech teacher (a fellow slicer as well) and wondered what we were going to do.  After all, my Tuesday lunches are for reading and commenting.  This can't be . . .

But it sure looks like it is true.

Access denied.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

soLs: and so it begins . . .

Slice of Life Stories hosted

Yesterday was the first day back: told in numbers

Rise and shine: 30 minutes earlier

Walk/jog on the treadmill: 2 miles in 30 minutes

Managed to finish Divergent: savored the last 50 pages

School (aka daycare) drop off:  easy and under 5 minutes

First drive to school in weeks:  9 miles in the usual 25 minutes

Breakfast treats and chatting:  30 minutes of catching up

Nitty gritty, review and new information:  over 2 hours of sitting

Finally, a yummy (catered) lunch:  2 tacos, 1 scoop of rice, and a handful of chips

Meetings in the afternoon:  over 2 more hours of sitting

Ever-so-thankful that I only have to sit and get:  1 day out of the school year

Otherwise, I'm listening
                    and learning
                        and reading
                            and thinking with kids: all 184 days left!

And so it begins . . .

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

soLs: think positively

Slice of Life Stories hosted

Yesterday was my last Monday of summer break.  And today is my last Tuesday.

It is finally hitting me that I have to venture back into the real world.  A real world with a real schedule.

My real world of . . .

life of being a mommy and teacher and always

how much learning, laughing, talking I'm missing when the girls are at daycare, and

to slow down and enjoy the small moments together even though I'm

how I'm going to get all the daily chores completed in a lesser amount of time and

the answer to the question I despise most: "What's for dinner?" all the while

my sense of self and sanity.

I know it can be done.

But from my vantage point:  

It's  a   l--o--n--g,      w                    e
                               n                 t       e
                               y,           s               p     road ahead in the upcoming weeks.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Picture Books: August 10 for 10

Check out other favorite 10 for 10 Picture Book Lists

Ten picture books 
I can't live without 
in my classroom.

I read a lot.  Not as much as some, but more than others.   A good chunk of my reading consists of picture books.  (Check out my Goodreads account!)   For one, I adore picture books.  The illustrations in combination with the words and the message -- whether simple or complex, pulls me in as a reader.  Also, I don't have a lot of free or extra time, so squeezing in a picture book here or there, or sharing one with my two little ones is feasible.  In my classroom, I utilize more picture books to enhance my reading and writing mini-lessons or just to share my pure love of reading.  I notice the more I share a picture book, the more I learn and the more I fall in love.  Maybe every picture book deserves a second and third read.  I wonder if there is a nugget waiting in the stack of books I currently have checked out from the library.

I've been keeping a mental list of books - of course, more than the elite ten I must choose.  I have considered looking back at last year's PB10for10 post . . . but I'm going to check it out later.  I know there will be books that I missed, but some books I just love more than others!  Also, I've come to realize that:

In different seasons of life, 
different books speak to us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here's my list for #pb10for10, in no particular order -- just ten books that I go back to over and over:

I fell in love with this book earlier this year.  It's truly just spectacular - the words, the illustrations, the waiting and waiting.  This was one of those books that every time I read it I realized something new or spotted something in the illustrations.

We are in a Book (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems 

Truly any Elephant and Piggie book will do, but I had to pick one to share.  Each new book in the series is better than the last!  Two fun characters that come to life through the pages of the book.  Some simple text with some big meaning!

Amazing story, even though many of us could never relate.  It's a story about a dad taking his daughter owling.  We hear the child's narrative of what happens during this silent event.  Rich vocabulary and word choice.  Gorgeous illustrations.  Touching story.

The Wall by Eve Bunting

A father takes his son to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in search of his father's name.  A remembrance of our veterans and those that fight for our freedom sparing their own lives. A thoughtful book that will lead to many conversations.

Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting

Another touching story by Eve Bunting about a father and his son forced to survive and live in an airport.  A story of hope and future beyond the glass doors of the airport.  It's sure to allow for many questions and wonderings.

A story about a girl who is in search of her own 'something beautiful.' She learns such a powerful lesson on her search:  what we hold near and dear to our hearts is our something beautiful.

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon   

A sweet little bat that I just go batty for every time I read it.  She's adorable and it's heartbreaking when Stellaluna is separated from her momma.  However, she does the best she can and hangs out with the birds until she is reunited.

Swimmy by Leo Lionni

A short story with amazing illustrations about teamwork and survival.  Worth a read at the beginning of the year to remind your team that we all need to work together to learn together.

An adorable puppy who gets sucked into an enticing book by a sweet little yellow bird who eventually teaches Rocket how to read.  A perfect read aloud for those just learning how to read. And coming soon . . . Rocket Writes a Story.  I can't wait to add this book to my library!  A perfect pair.

Described as street poetry, this is a fun book to read aloud together, in pairs, or by yourself.  Awesome how little words can bring two boys together as friends.  A perfect read for fluency while noticing punctuation marks and the size and color of the words.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As Mr. Schu always says, 'Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.'

Be sure to check out other favorite 10 for 10 picture books at
Jog the Web compilation
On Twitter: #pb10for10

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

soLs: so, when DO you go back?

Slice of Life Stories hosted

So, when do you go back?

I've been asked this question more times than I can count on my two hands.

My answer:  I don't know.  Sometime in mid-August.

Right now, that is where my brain is -- on hold.  I've enjoyed the slower pace of summer, even though every day I have been busy with my girls. Just to have the time to laugh and play and be with them is a gift, and every summer I will appreciate the time more and more.

I've also been busy reading. Reading articles, reading blogs, reading picture books, reading MG and YA books, reading professional books.  I haven't read as much as I hoped.  I still have a book stack of 30+ books waiting patiently.  (However, for many of the books, they will be returned to the library unread . . . until the next time.)  But I've been reading and learning and stretching my thinking.

I've been living in the dreamlike world of school thinking about my ultimate goals, hopes, and dreams in my classroom and school.  Thinking about the changes I want to make.  Thinking about nurturing my readers and writers.  Thinking about engaging students through curiosity and wonder.

I know reality is coming.  And it's coming fast!  I will slowly enter the world of school because I know that once I'm there - there is no looking back!  We are off and running forward!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

#cyberPD: Opening Minds - Final Thoughts

'"It's OK for things to be hard.  That's when we learn.  We show we believe in ourselves by saying things like 
'I don't get it yet.'"
Johnston p.115

My first goal is take time to reread Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter H. Johnston (Stenhouse, 2012).  I know I got the BIG ideas, but I'm sure there are so many little ideas that I need to decipher and connect to at home and in my classroom.  I was feeling very guilty about my language choices and feeling immense pressure to make big changes.  Learning from the other #cyberPD participants through reflective blog posts, forward thinking comments, and the fast Twitter chat (including Mr. Peter Johnston himself!) relieved my stress.

I'm REALLY not good at this yet, but I'm also not alone! 

As I was thinking about this post over the last couple days, I was bombarded by quotes shared from colleagues via Twitter (and other daily reading and browsing) consistently reminding me what is important:

"Our kids in our classroom might not remember WHAT we teach them, but they will never forget the experiences we give them." ~ Steven W. Anderson

"Our jobs are not to lecture content and spoon feed facts. Our lives as teachers are about inspiring kids." ~ Krissy Venosdale

"No guilt. Just action." ~ Peter Johnston

Mistakes are opportunities for learning. ~ Deb Frazier

Even with technology, it's about PROCESS over product. ~ Deb Frazier

"Do we intentionally teach the culture of the classroom before we demand it?" ~ Deb Frazier

Reducing instruction, increasing engagement. ~ Peter Johnston (Stenhouse blog)

"If you are an educator, you are an inspiration to someone.  Someone is looking up to you and wants to be like you." ~ Steven W. Anderson

"We need more discussions in schools about how to create engaging, motivating, authentic learning experiences." ~ Krissy Venosdale

"Don Graves found in 1978 Ford Foundation Study: One teacher can change a student as a reader and writer forever. Be that teacher." ~ Penny Kittle

". . . I figured out that SILENT and LISTEN are made of the same letters." ~ One For the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

One after the other, smacking me up side the head reminding me again what is important in my classroom:
  • Continue to focus on building a classroom learning community
  • Listen. Listen some more.
  • Use language to encourage the dynamic mindset
  • Focus on the process
  • Create a dialogic classroom:
    • Say less, listen more
    • Ask open questions
    • Provide wait time
    • Use more nonjudgemental responses
    • Teach students to listen and respond appropriately
  • Nurture a sense of inquiry, uncertainty to engage students
  • Remember teaching is planned opportunism, requires constant improvisation, and choosing more productive talk
  • Think together through books
Those are (a few) hefty goals.  The good news, I already incorporate many of these characteristics and teaching in my classroom, but there is always room for improvement -- that's the mindset I have!  I know as I read the other final thoughts I'll be jotting down more and more ideas.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts too!

I also hope this isn't the end of our conversations . . . let us continue on!

* * * * * * * * * * * 

#cyberPD: Learning more from others!

Final thoughts and reflections with Carol @ Carol's Corner
A collection of all the responses and thinking about Opening MindsJog the Web