Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Little Things

Today a student said, "You're really nice to kids."

'nuff said... :-)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Using my children to lesson plan.

I came to a great realization this evening!!! My children can make my lesson plans for me!

As I was reading their bedtime story, I stopped periodically to have my kids predict, look at format, sentence structure, and synonyms for the title of the book First Day Jitters. I've done this type of thing often; last week I taught them onomotopeia (sp) as we read about bees buzzing and clothes zipping.  But it struck me tonight, that I could use them to lesson plan!

Tomorrow is the first day of school so the book seemed appropriate for bedtime.  It was not the first time they had heard it, but being the teacher that I am, I said, "It's the first time I'm reading it to you so listen to my voice and see if you notice differences from last time you heard the story read aloud."  (On a side note... I'd like to thank Heather Radar from Choice Literacy.  Those words came from her book Side by Side which is one of the fabulous professional reads I enjoyed this summer.) I plan to share it with a group of 5th graders I'll be working with tomorrow, so as I was reading it out loud tonight, many ideas came to me for the lesson I will use. 

I'm excited to share my love of reading with the new students that I will meet tomorrow.  Though they will not be "my" students this year, I will invest all that I have to build confidence in their ability to read and comprehend.  And now that I have (a bit) more time in the evenings to read to my own kids, I will be using them to help me lesson plan for the students who need my help each day in the classroom.  :-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Winding down-Gearing up!

I'm trying to get into back to school mode by being awake at 5:30 in the morning.  I forget how relaxing and peaceful this time of day is in my typically noisy house.

Yesterday seemed to be the perfect wake-up call that summer is "over".  It rained ALL day... and I didn't mind one bit! This summer has been one of the best yet; though I think I say that every summer.  My family had an awesome vacation to LA and my husband and I just got back from a much-needed, adult-only trip to Ft. Myers beach.  In between trips we had baseball, out-of-town visitors, sleepovers, and gorgeous weather!! Someone just reminded me of a beautifull quote by Dr. Seuss: "Don't cry because it's over; Smile because it happened."  I think these are words to live by as the lazy days of summer wind down and the chaos of routine gears ups.

Tony, Mia and Gio are starting 2nd grade this year! Where has the time gone?! My wish for them is to have positive memories of adults who make a positive impact on their daily lives. When we send our kids to school, we are trusting the adults who influence them for 8 hours a day will be role models.  This year, in addition to the 3 R's, I wish for my kids to learn kindness, compassion, tolerance and respect for all: nature and man alike.

Welcome to the 2012-2013 school year! May it be the best ever!! :-)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Welcome back, me!

WOW!! I have not blogged since April!  Don't know how I feel about that: am I happy that my life is so full and busy or do I wish I had more time for myself?  Either way, I'm hoping to get back into a routine which this academic year, will include blogging.

As I begin my thirteenth year teaching, I'm having mixed emotions for sure! This year I will not welcome students into my classroom which I have spent hours wanting to decorate and make the most perfect and warming environment possible.  I will not choose the perfect outfit to greet my new 7th graders at the door for the first time and hope that by my appearance they can tell I will love and respect them with everything in me; as I would want my own children's teachers to do for them.

Instead, this year I will stand as a bathroom guard for the students making their final trip before the homeroom bell, outside of my office that (has no AC) will never see the likes of a bunch of students eager to learn the in's and out's of great writing and literacy.  This year, I resume as a teacher in a whole different context.  I will be the teacher who goes into a classroom to help those most struggling readers understand the beauty of words on a page and I just may help one or two teachers this year to understand the beauty of getting their students to understand the words on the page.  Sound confusing?  I'm not quite sure about my role either at this time.  :-)  What I do know is that I pursued this path of Literacy Coaching and I chose the (hot) office over the classroom so with all change come nerves about the unknown; and that's likely the position I'm in. It's going to be a year worth of reflection and learning for sure.  I'm hoping that as I continue to blog, my feelings become more positive about the impact that I am making and the confidence in my ability that I am gaining, beacuse right now, I'm not feeling too confident.  But it will come; I'm sure.  Right?

Now I'm off to choose my best outfit for bathroom duty! :-)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Please Vote!

I'm in a contest to win $100.00 with which I would purchase beanbag chairs to create a comfortable reading environment in my school.  Around Christmas time, I transformed an otherwise unused space into a warm and welcoming place where kids could come and sit to enjoy a good book, and to receive help in conquering the difficulties that some find in comprehending what they read.  For next school year, I'm hoping to begin a peer tutoring program that I would oversee, but the focus would be on reading and understanding various texts. 

So I need votes to win; and I figured this was a great community to send a plea for votes to.  Please vote for me and support "The Comforts of Reading" and know that I appreciate you for taking a minute to do so! Click the link below to place your vote:

To understand more about what you are voting for, read my idea after (or before) you vote.  Thank you! :-)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Secret

My husband went to a friend's house last night and the friend's wife mentioned that she was disappointed that I didn't keep up with my blogging.  Well she's not the only one! Every time I log on to my computer and see my blogspot on my favorite's bar, I am disappointed in myself.  So I'm going to try this again.  I'm not sure who/if anyone will ever read my posts, but I'm going to do this for myself.  It's theraputic!

This weekend I spent some time visiting with a couple of my most inspirational friends.  They're two ladies who always look at the glass as half full and I always walk away from a conversation with them feeling inspired, and like I can conquer anything.  It's always a good time.

This time we watched "The Secret".  I had heard of the book and was familiar with the idea, but have never actually read it.  What a powerful concept! It's based on the law of attraction and the idea that our mind is a powerful thing and we can control the universe with positive thoughts.  For example, rather than focusing on the negative, being in debt, focus on the positive, wishing you had money to pay off credit cards.  It was hard for me to buy into the concept initially, and I still have a few apprehensions about it (like if I wish for money it's not really just going to show up as the movie suggested) but the power of positive thinking motivates you to do better and be better and that in turn will bring you success: monitary, emotionally, physically, and universally.  I definitley plan to incorporate The Secret into my everday life. And that was another key point.  It cannot be something that's a chore.  You shouldn't have to make time for The Secret; it should be something you do naturally becasue you believe in it.

I'm off to make my first inspiration board so I can visualize what I want in my already fulfilling life.  :-)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Music to My Ears

My husband is reading to my children as I type this.  I love the way the kids are crowded atound him listening to the story of Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. 

When I was pregnant, on bedrest, and very very large, my husband read stories to my belly.  It was so sweet but not totally surprising because that's the kind of guy he is. We are both avid readers and reading and writing play a huge role in both of our careers, so having children who enjoy books as much as we do is not only important, but beautiful.  What's better... their love comes from a personal want to read, not becasue we make them read.

So instead of writing more tonight, I'm going to listen to him reading to the kids before bed.

Have a great week ahead, everyone!!   :-)

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's A Job

It's FRIDAY!!! The sun is shining and tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day!! I am ready for the weekend!

This past Tuesday our principal announced that he would be leaving us here at the Middle School to become principal at a district elementary school where the current principal is retiring.  This wouldn't come as such a shock to our staff IF he wasn't the SEVENTH principal to leave us in my 12 years here.  Our administrative turnover is great, though our staff turnover is not.  What that means to me is that even though we go through administrators like water, our staff continues to plug along and get the job done.  Though there's stress in the hallways, in the confines of our classrooms we continue to do what's best for kids.  And our consistent Excellent rating shows it.

Yesterday when I heard a staff member say "It's just a job" it resonated within me.  It isn't "just" a job to me.  It's kids and our future.  This teacher is one who I admire greatly!! She is a hard worker in her SpEd classroom and I know those were words of frustration.  So I hope she too will enjoy the sunshine and use the weekend to relax, then come back to her "job" realizing what an impact she has on kids and how much they need her.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Disappointed in Myself This Morning.

It's Thursday and you'll notice from my sidebar that I haven't written since Monday.  I'm disappointed by that. This challenge was something I really wanted to do for myself.  I don't have any excuse except that the weather has finally been nice so I've been enjoying lots of outside time, and my family is just plain busy.  But we're always busy as a family, so that's really not a very good excuse.

I've been in a lot of classrooms this week modeling lessons for other teachers.  My favorite was a SpEd class called Bridges.  There are only 5 students in this class: they are ED (which we call Bridges), all boys, and range in ages from 10-13 (grades 5-8).  I have worked with this group a number of times and enjoy every experience. For this lesson I was introducing examing characters in fiction.  I wanted to make a key to show the relationship between many characters in one plot.  So I asked the question, with markers and paper in hand and the characters already drawn and an explanation of what we were doing,  in other words it was very clear what I was looking for, "How do I make a key?"  The answer, "You go to Target and ask them to make you a key."  Now whether or not Target really makes keys I don't know, but this child (a 7th grader) was being serious in his very literal answer.  It made me chuckle.  I love these kids!  I proceeded with that teachable moment by explaining setting.  Did his answer match the setting of our class and what we were trying to accomplish?

Although I hadn't planned a lesson on setting, we had a great conversation about it which then developed into my lesson on characters.  The moral of this blog is why I love teaching! Kids bring great joy to my day! I love what I learn from them!! :-)

Monday, March 12, 2012

If Only It Really Was a Job Share...

Today I only worked a half day.  My son was still not well enough to go to school and my husband could be home in the morning with him but not in the afternoon.  We split the day because I had to teach two classes and coach in a third, all in the first four periods of the day so I could be home in the afternoon but not the morning.  Therefore, my husband and I job shared today.  I'm finding myself feeling relaxed and rested at 7:00 at night where on "normal" days I'm just an hour away from crashing.  I love this idea of job sharing!

When my kids were nine months old, and I was going back to work, a coworker and I applied for a job share. We had the perfect arrangement at a cost savings to the district, but we were denied because it just wasn't something my district wanted to get in the habit of approving; even though it was and still is in the contract.  Fortunatley I had family who watched the kids so I was able to go back to work full time without the stress of having my babies in a daycare full time. Was it ideal, no. But I love teaching so having to leave them to return to work was actually OK.

Fast forward seven years. The kids are in first grade; three different classrooms.  Each is having a unique experience with their teacher. Althought the teachers share a curriculum, they certainly do not share personalities. Of the three classes, and I should add here that my kids have 29-31 kids with one teacher, the child with the teachers who are job sharing is having the best first grade experience. He has one teacher in the morning and another one after lunch.  These teachers are vibrant and energetic throughout their whole time in the classroom! They'll tell you that they come in relaxed, never worry about getting subs or having to find childcare for their sick children, and their workload is bearable.  They do a great job communicating with eachother and the parents.  It's the dream situation!

Imagine the world if everyone who wanted to, and was able to, could job share.  There would be a whole less stress and a far more relaxed society.  Europe has siestas; America needs job shares.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Reflection on 10 Days Worth of Slices

This evening I'm reflecting on this 30 day writing challenge.  The toughest part has been finding the time to write.  I 've been writing mostly after the kids are in bed. Writing so late at night is not as much of a challenge as I thought is would be since it's something I look forward to.  The downfall to posting so late is that I might not be getting the feedback that I could get if I posted earlier in the day.  Nontheless, I am happy to be a part of this writing challenge!

I left a comment earlier on TWT regarding my lack of technological knowledge. Something about admitting that out loud motivated me to play around with the layout and settings of my blog page and now I've added a few gadgets that I have been wanting to; like the list of blogs that I enjoy!

This challenge is a great experience for me. I don't know how I stumbled across TWT in late February, but I'm so glad I did.  I discovered the challenge just in the knick of time to get aquainted with blogger and begin my new hobby.  And I'm so happy that I did.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Big Day in a Small Town

My husband and I are very fortunate to be raising our chidren in a modern day town with an old town feel.  We live less a mile from the town square. And our town square rocks! It was my New Year's resolution to shop locally and supporting our town square has been a big part of upholding that resolution.

Today was a beautiful, sunny day! The temperature was only a high of 32, but the sun was shining, my kids were all feeling good, and I was in a great mood.  I picked the kids up from PSR and off we went to explore our square. With checklist in hand, it was our mission to see how many things we could see, do, and buy all in "our square".  We started at the pottery place. You know the kind: it costs $10 to paint a small keepsake, 50% more for the studio fee + tax, but the memories are priceless.  Each of my kids painted an Easter egg that matches their style and then together we painted the basket they'll be displayed in. I can't wait to have the annual reminder of our fun day as I decorate the house each spring! We checked off our list and went to next stop; a little antique store owned and operated by multiple sellers.  There we purchased a bunny.  Guess we were feeling the Easter spirit! Check. Lunch followed at what my husband calls "a greasy spoon."  I'm not one to frequent these types of places, but the kids and him go there before school on occasion and they love it. Since this was their day, I agreed to go.  I must admit, the food was pretty good. You can't beat the price either! And it all stays local.  Our next stop was a little old-time toy and train museum, but it was closed.  Sadly, we could not check that off our list.  My son decided we should put an "X" next to it instead because that would symbolize we didn't get to go.  Off we went to what was the much anticipated stop of the day: the toy store!! This is run by an older gentleman named Ken.  Ken loves kids. Plain and simple. If you're familiar with Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium you know Ken.  Each time we go in, Ken spends time playing with the kids, introducing them to his newest toys, and making them believe in the magic that is youth. We love Ken! And Ken loves us because we always walk out spending a fortune; which is why it's a special occasion when we go. Check.  Finally, our last stop of the day, a new frozen yogurt store.  I think I was the most impressed.  It was self serve and had every kind of topping you could imagine!

The day was one that will be stored in my memory forever.  There were many other places we wanted to explore but everyone was getting a bit too tired and I didn't want the "goodness" to dissolve into exhaustion.  We'll save the other stores for the next time we have a big day in our small town and hopefully Daddy will be able to join us.  :-)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Opening Minds

I am currently reading quite a few books at one time: 3 for the classes I teach, 1 for professional development, and 1 for pleasure. I have a system.

The one for pleasure I read while on the treadmill or bike at the gym.  Since it's my "pleasure" book, it makes me want to work out so that I can read. 

The books I'm reading for my classes are books I'm working on in conjunction with the teachers. While it's important for me to know the plot, I can gain a lot of valuable information just in conversation.

The book for PD is actually the topic of today's blog. I am about to start reading Opening Minds, by Peter Johnston a book that I think might be worthwhile reading for my staff. Have any teachers out there ever read this book and if so can you offer me any advice or suggestions on presenting it to staff? I kind of offered to lead a book study.  Has anyone ever led a book study?  This is new territory for me. I know the word "leader" is on my teaching license, but the thought of leading a group of my peers makes me very nervous.  What if no one shows up?

If anyone has anything to share on this topic, I'd love to hear it! I'm very open minded! :-)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Writer's Block

I'm just not feeling the inspiration tonight, blog world. I'm afraid I'm at a loss for words let alone complete thoughts. I was home today with a sick child. It was nice to snuggle and watch movies all day. But as I'm sure we'd all agree, it's no fun to see our children feeling badly.  My son said to me today, "I wish I was sneezing more and coughing less 'cuz the coughing hurts."  Awww... I just want to make him feel better.

When the kids were 2, almost 3, they all got rotovirus... at the same time!! My daughter was able to avoid the hospital, but both boys were admitted due to dehydration. One was in the hospital Monday-Thursday, and the other Wednesday-Sunday.  Wednesday night they let the boys share a room. That was sweet.  It was a rough week.  I only left their side when my husband could be there so I could go home to see my daughter. I only slept at home once that week.  The rest of the time I was holding the boys just trying to make them feel better.  In hindsight, it was a relaxing, albeit stressful week, and I got to spend some real quality time rocking my children.  There are points of that horrific week that I will always cherish:  the time that I just got to be their mom and nothing else mattered.

This too shall pass.  Soon he'll feel better and I'll go back to worrying about test prep and encouraging struggling readers.  For tonight, I'll hold my sick child.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Just What the Doctor Ordered

I got a manicure and pedicure the other day. It was the first one of the season. Throughout the spring and summer, or flip-flop time, I try to keep up with my toes. Getting a pool pass is a big deal for my family and I would like most of the attention during bathing suit season diverted to my feet.  Plus, plain and simple, it's a relaxing and selfish way to spend 2 hours each month. 

I dropped my daughter of at dance the other night and stopped on my way home for a bit of pampering.  What made it so special this time is that it was completely unplanned. The plan was to complete my half of the carpool, and then come home to get some work done. Instead, I was a walk-in at my favorite salon who they happened to have time for. As I sat back in the massage chair (that feels like it's about to rocket off into space- I usually turn it off promptly after they turn it on), soaked my feet in the perfectly hot water, and sipped on my large blueberry coffee, I reflected. Because if you've been keeping up with my blog, reflecting is what I do.  And this is what came to me:

As I sat flipping through People catching up on the gossip and current hairstyles of celebrities, I thought maybe the middle schoolers I work with would enjoy reading more if they could do it while getting a pedicure. OK, so that's sort of a metaphor, but what if they could read while sitting on a soccer ball, or basketball, or skateboard, or listening to their favorite tunes, or sitting on big comfy pillows.  When I was in a classroom, I offered carpet squares to my 7th graders any time they read. And each week we had "coffee club" while reading the newspaper. The idea was that adults don't sit at hard desks in hard chairs while they read the newspaper so why should students? I offered tons of free choice reading in my classes as long as the books were of the genre I was currently teaching.  I taught only 2 class novels, but was somehow still able to assess that my students were meeting the required standards. ;-)  I gained a reputation for being passionate about reading. Which is probably what caused me to move into this new position that I'm still trying to work through. Nonetheless, kids enjoyed being in my class where they were free to read and write what they wanted. We had rules of course, but I was creating readers and writers. It''s true, kids actually enjoyed reading and writing.  Of course, it was never 100% of them, but I'm confident it was the majority. 

So I'm going to petition the state to begin funding spas in schools.  Even with all the cutbacks in educational funding, I think kids deserve pedicures while they read.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's Me Time

I've decided to take a different approach to today's blog.  I figured since I don't have any followers, and very few people even know that I'm blogging, this would be the perfect time to reflect on me.  So it's me time. 

I wonder how many people actually feel the way I do but don't say it because we're humble?

By nature teachers care about others.  Well I care deeply, about lots of others, and I'm always trying to make peace: among my staff, with administrators, and even among people district wide.  I realize it's not for nothing since I'm helping others feel good about themselves and each other.  In my position, I talk with teachers of all grade levels so I can squash a lot of speculation.  But at the end of the day I'm emotionally exhausted. I'm exhausted from all the squashing and caring and trying to save people's feelings because I care.  And I wonder, do other people talk as nicely about me behind my back as I talk about them?  I am always giving a compliment, some form of praise, to help people feel good about themselves and to motivate them to continue doing good work.  I rarely hear those forms of praise back. I have to wonder, is it because the praise isn't there to give? Have I not done something I should have to earn the prasie?  I thrive on feedback to propel me forward; both positive and negative feedback. As my blog title suggest, I work hard, giving all that I can, and I love it. But is it too much to ask after creating, implementing and providing feedback to teachers on a lesson, that for once they provide feedback to me? I know it's not humble to ask for recognition. That's why I hope this particular post gets buried.

Now that I've gotten all that out of the way I feel better.  I always teach my students that writing is a great expression of our emotions and it's got a way of healing us.  Now as I reflect on my reflection it sounds like I'm feeling sorry for myself. I assure you, I'm not one to feel sorry for myself.  :-)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Let Me Hold You Longer

Yesterday's blog made me reflect on my feelings.  Please don't misunderstand me. I LOVE the people my children are growing up to be.  They are thoughtful, kind, compassionate, funny, and smart. They have their moments, for sure, but are overall great kids!! I don't want to hold them back from growing up; I want to help them do it with confidence and grace.  The book that I referenced yesterday is this one:

When I said that they grow up fast, I meant it. But I am enjoying watching them grow. I am a nostalgic person, I'm emotional and I cry. But I cry happy tears beacause of the beautiful people my children are becoming. I get my confidence from my daughter. I watch the way she interacts with people, the way she is kind to everyone and the most non-judgmental person I know. I get my sense of adventure from my youngest son. He is a daredeveil, willing to take chances to expeience new things. My want to help others comes from my oldest son. He is most happy when he knows he is being helpful, especially to an adult.  So although my children don't need me to hold their hand when they visit the dentist, I need them to help me be the best person I can be.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I'm excited to have discovered this challenge to get me blogging. I started two days late but I started!  :-)

A First For Every Last

When you have kids, and people say "They grow up so fast", you don't really understand that until you're in the midst of it. 

Yesterday I cried at the dentist. My 7 year olds were able to go back with the dental hygenist unaccompanied. That I cried was ridiculous; that I told my husband they would be leaving for college soon was even more ridiculous. But what I gained from this experience, is that I won't take a minute for granted. I must say, I'm pretty good about cherishing all of their moments.  Someone introduced me to a book when the kids were just 2 and it was about never knowing when it might be the last time you change a diaper, or the last day you hold your baby for a bottle, or the last time your child holds your hand while crossing the street. You just never know when you'll experience "the last" moment. So at that time, I chose to enjoy every moment.  When my kids went for their annual cleaning without needing me by their side, I cried because I didn't know six months ago would be the last time they would need me next to them to answer questions about how often we floss and if they've experienced any pain with their teeth lately. They clearly can now answer those questions on their own.

I live less than an hour from Chardon, Ohio; the most recent victims of a school shooting. Being a teacher and a mom and being so close to the horrific tragedy has made me do a lot of reflecting this week.  Children do grow up fast. Too fast if you ask me.  I will cherish all their moments with them because you never know when it might be a last.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Begininning Slice

So I've been wanting to start a blog since it became "the thing to do".  I never really had the motivation until I discovered Two Writing Teachers and read about their March Slice of Life writing experience. I realize it's March 3; it has taken me that long to figure out how to create this blog.  I'll just write until April 3... and forever after. 

I will reflect: on the day, on work, on how I could be a better person, on how I treat those around me, basically on life.  I will reflect daily for the next 30 days straight. I'm excited to take on this new adventure. I can't wait to see what awaits me...