Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Musings - August 12

I have really been thinking about my online presence lately.  In June and the first of July, I was online a great deal, specifically tweeting about amazing learning opportunities.  Then, on July 16, the day after I did some work in Illinois, I stopped most of my professional online activity cold.

For almost a month now, my online presence has found me focused on mostly the social aspect of Facebook, staying caught up with friends' lives, and every once in a while, reading or bookmarking a professional article of interest.

I've missed the last two #titlechats, which is unheard of for me.  I haven't written a blog post, but I have been writing and composing many other pieces.  I didn't even participate in #PB10for10 today.

I think after the flurry of professional activity in June and the beginning of July, I needed to step back, and enjoy some "me" time; I needed time to refresh and renew.  So in the last month, I've read more fun adult books than I can ever share here :), I've spent quality time with my husband, we carved out time to go to DC to visit our eldest, I've taken up knitting again, planned and remodeled two of our bathrooms, and spent much time with friends.  It's been a great summer.

But now it's time to come back professionally.

Last night I participated in my first twitter chat of the summer with the #TWTblog ladies and many other smart educators.  It was incredibly energizing, and has me excited to work with teachers in my new role as literacy coach thinking about writing workshop.  It felt good to be back and having dialogue about important topics.

This week will be a busy one professionally: I will spend time setting up the office I will share with other coaches in one of my buildings, and will also have one more day of coaches' training.  In addition, there are many professional books and articles which still have to be read.  I may even write a belated #PB10for10 post.

And next Sunday, August 17, at 8:00 PM I have the privilege of co-hosting the #nctechat with Lee Ann Spillane.  Our topic will be Building Classroom Community.  What a perfect topic to think about at the beginning of a new school year.

It was wonderful to take a break, but I'm delighted to join my online professional communities again.

Thanks to the ladies at Two Writing Teachers for hosting us on Tuesdays for Slice of Life.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

She's a Teacher Now

For as long as I can remember, our daughter Meredith, has wanted to be a teacher.  I've said here before, she has the thing that can't be taught, she gets kids, so I know she'll be a good one.  Now, her dream has been realized, she accepted a position in Immokalee, Florida, just east of Fort Myers to teach first grade.  We'll be moving her this weekend, and she starts on the following Thursday with the rest of the new teachers in Collier County.  It's bittersweet.  While we are very proud of Meredith and her accomplishments, she's moving 17 hours away and we will miss her, but as parents, that's what we want, we want to raise them with the confidence to chase their dreams and to be happy.  Meredith is doing both and through the tears, the Lovely Mrs. Prosser and I are smiling.

It's given me time to think about what I would tell a first year teacher if they asked, and since not many ask, this is as good a place as any to put my thoughts down.  Feel free to add to my list if you have some valuable piece of advice for a new teacher. 

Respect the experienced teachers.  I don't mean you have to do everything they tell you, but really listen and value their advice.  They know things and even though you may not agree with everything they say, or want to do it exactly how they do, their advice can save you lots of frustration and stress and may save you some time.

Don't live at the school, the job will be there tomorrow.  Work hard, give your school and kids everything you got, but don't forget to take time for yourself.  Balance is key and if you don't have it, you'll burn out.

Be involved.  Over my 30 years I've called Bingo, worked carnival games, played basketball, served as an auctioneer, watched countless soccer games, basketball games, baseball games, recitals, etc.  I've learned that if your school community sees you at events that are important to them, it goes a long way to creating the credibility with parents.  An hour here and there at school events shows you care about your students as people not just faces in your classroom.

Get to know the secretaries.  We all know who runs the office.  Having these folks on your side is always a good idea.  They can get you in to see the principal if you need to, find some extra money in the budget if you need it and just make your day to day life easier if you treat them well.

Have fun.  Our job is hard work, a lot of people don't really get that, but if you don't have fun, it's a long tedious year.  Laugh, play games, sing silly songs, dance funny.  I have always felt if I can get my students to enjoy school, I can teach them anything.

Read! Read! Read!  You have to be up on the new literature so you can share it with your students.  Know the books they like and are reading, even if it's not your favorite genre, read it anyway.  You never know when a book will create that connection to a student that makes a difference.  I don't believe we can create readers if we aren't readers ourselves.

Read aloud everyday.  Find a time to read aloud just for the enjoyment of a good story.  Too many times we read books because they teach something, or reinforce a concept.  Read aloud with the purpose of just enjoying the story together that's how life long readers are created.

There are any number of professional books out there that talk about best practices but these are some things that I wish I had been told in my college classes.  These are things that aren't taught, but can make your life easier and the job more rewarding than the things taught in college.

Good luck, Meredith, I know you'll be great!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

5 Things That Made Me a Reader

I've been going through my old emails, cleaning out the account, and I ran across this that I wrote for James Preller's Fathers Read blog.  As I read it, I realized that it might make a pretty good post here and maybe start some conversation.  I have 5 things, but most of us can pin point one or two events that turned us into readers.  What are yours?

5 things about me as a reader:

1. One of my earliest memories of reading is fourth grade. My teacher Mrs. Moore read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aloud to us. I was so taken by the story that I talked about it at home all the time. I come from a family of readers, so my parents bought me a copy as a gift and my mother and I took turns reading it aloud to one another. It's still one of my favorite childhood memories and I'm sure it's a large part of where I am today, sharing books with kids for a living.

2. I grew up in a small town, but we had a great library. In summers, my neighbor, Susie, and I would walk to the library at the beginning of the week, check out a stack of books, and walk home. We'd spend a large part of each day sitting on my front porch reading. The next week we would walk to the library, exchange our books and start all over again. We did this without any sort of prize offerings or other incentives, just because we loved books. My favorites were the junior biographies. I must have read every one on the shelf, some of them several times. It introduced me to George Washington Carver, a man I am still amazed by to this day. I still love to read a good biography.

3. My family of readers goes back a couple of generations. My grandfather, Pop Davis, lived with my family for several years before he passed away. He was a reader! He loved westerns and baseball. On summer evenings he could be found sitting in his chair reading a book, listening to one baseball game while watching another. He was truly a multi-tasker and an example of a man who loved to read.

4. My father is also an avid reader. Growing up he read when he could, always pouring over the local news, squeezing a book in when he had time, but always encouraging my sisters and I to read. Today, in retirement, he has kind of taken over my trips to the library. He and Mom make at least a weekly trip to the library, usually focusing on an author. They will check out everything by an author, read it, trade it, and then return them. Typically they won't move on until they have finished everything available by the chosen author. To this day they are great examples of readers and book lovers.

5. My current reading habits revolve around finding things for the library. Occasionally I slip an adult book in, but mostly it's kid stuff. It is interesting how books for kids have evolved. They are much deeper and better written today. Kids today are much more sophisticated then Susie and I were. They have higher expectations than we did and authors are competing for their attention. We didn't have video games, internet, cable television or the level of organized sports that kids have today, so books provided our entertainment.

I realize now that this list isn't so much about me as a reader, but a history of what made me a reader.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Reading Begins on the Bus

I just returned from my second trip to Boston and after a good night's sleep, I'm ready to begin my summer for real!  I haven't really felt like I was on summer break yet because the Monday after we finished, I started meeting with the 120 students I would be taking to Beantown over two weekends.  Both weekends went well and the kids and chaperones all came home tired, a sign of a successful trip!

The first weekend I took 79 students, two bus loads for the first time ever.  Unfortunately rained everyday but Sunday but the kids didn't allow it to dampen their spirits and toured like champs, never complaining and always engaged in the learning.  The second weekend included 43 kids and the weather couldn't have been better, mid 70s and sunny every day.  So even with the tale of two weekends, they couldn't have been more different weather wise, there is always a LOOOOOONG bus ride involved, which allows for lots of reading.

On the first weekend, I took Revolution by Deborah Wiles.  It's the long awaited follow up to Countdown in her 60s trilogy.  I love what she does with this book and when you consider what is included in each volume, it's understandable why so much time passed between titles.  They are truly a multi disciplinary study of important events that helped shape the 60s.  Countdown was a look at the events surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis and Revolution is a study of Freedom Summer in Mississippi.

Revolution is the story of Sunny Fairchild and her newly blended family which includes a step mother, Annabelle, who she doesn't like and a step brother, Gillette, who she is very close to.  They live in Greenwood, Mississippi, a hot bed of the civil rights movement and equal voting rights for the African Americans living there. 

Sunny is torn, she sees both sides of the argument, but has been raised in a culture that really clouds her vision and makes it hard for her to accept that things are changing.  She just wants everybody to stay the same so that her life can stay the same.  After the Civil Rights Act is passed she wants to swim in the public pool, but it closes to keep the black kids from enjoying it too, she wants to go to the movie theater where her Uncle Parnell works, but her father says it's not safe when African American kids start going there too.  Everything is changing and she is not happy.

When her step-mother begins to work for the rights of all, holding meetings in their house of like minded women, and Sunny's life is turned upside down.  Through a series of interactions with the college students working for voting rights, she calls them "the invaders", Sunny begins to really see that there are two sides to every argument, and change isn't bad when so many benefit from it. 

As always, Deborah Wiles creates characters and situations that draw readers in and keep them there.  Between chapters of fiction, she gives the reader biographies of people who played important roles in the movement.  Some of them I was familiar with and some it was the first I had heard of them.  She includes pictures and poetry and song from the events in Mississippi.  She includes primary documents put out by both sides, the Civil Rights workers and the KKK, which are very disturbing.

I really like the book and learned many things that I didn't know about the events in Mississippi.  It's a high level book and I will put it in the library but only recommend it to my mature readers.  It will take a really good student to get through this one, and is probably more suited to middle and high school, but for the rare student who gets it, this is an important read.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Celebrate! - June 21

The biggest celebration for me this week was #AllWrite14, and everything that entailed:

  • Over seven round-trip hours of lively conversation about professional and personal lives.  Thanks so much Josie, MaryLee, and Karen for taking that journey with me.
  • Being with my tweeps from around the country, learning, laughing, and talking for hours.  You know you are and I am so grateful for each and every one of you!!
  • On MaryLee's nudge, finding this amazing shop, MudLove (check it out at mudlove.com).  I bought two pieces of amazing pottery hand-crafted by them.  The friends I shopped with bought many inspirational bracelets (what they are really known for), but I didn't think a bracelet would look good on me, so I passed. 
  • My surprise and delight the very next day, when receiving a gift of the afore-mentioned bracelets from one of my Long Island tweeps.  It says "inspire" and will be a guiding word for me as I embrace my literacy coach position this next year.  I was incredibly touched by her generosity, and it fit perfectly!!
  • Learning from brilliant educators such as Franki Sibberson, Stephanie Harvey, Cris Tovani, Colby Sharp, Donalyn Miller, Kristin Ziemke, and Kelly Gallagher.  My brain is packed with wonderful wisdom from each of them.
  • Time - time to meet with my professional learning network and talk about celebrations and ways we want to refine our own teaching and learning.  Time built into presentations to turn and talk which allowed me to dig in even deeper to the topics.  Time to talk about great books.  Time to think with and talk to friends and colleagues from my own school district that I don't always have.  Time to do a little sightseeing and shopping.  
  • Lunch on the last day with someone who is incredibly dear to me.  I consider her a mentor in so many ways and couldn't have been happier to spend time together.
  • One of the pottery purchases
    My MudLove bracelet
  • Thinking about "gritty celebrations" after Ruth's brilliant keynote.
I came home yesterday rejuvenated and proud to call myself an educator, a teacher, and a learner.

For more celebrations, hop on over to Ruth's blog.  Thanks so much to Ruth for hosting us each week!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Celebrate - June 14

Several things have made me very happy this week, and were each a cause for celebration:

1) Coaches' Training - I spent four and a half days in training for literacy and numeracy coaches this week.  Two of the days were specifically geared toward the technology tools we were given to help in our jobs and how to best use them for productivity and sharing of knowledge.  The rest of our time was spent on clarifying the vision we will all have as coaches, planning for our first cycle of coaching, and valuable time was spent getting to know one another, as well as our administrators.  I am so blessed to work with such a unique group of talented people.  The bonds we built this week will be beneficial as we work through this new journey together.

2) Lunch - Many of us ate out together for all 4 days of whole-day training.  Any educator reading this post understands how lovely this was.  Not to mention, the conversations we had that were so meaningful, both personal and professional.  An hour together each day in a relaxed setting, with great food was a true gift.

3) Weeding - I came home from our half day session on Friday to find that the man who does our edging, weeding, trimming, and mulching was here.  Our beds had become disasters, overgrown with weeds, and because poison ivy is so prevalent, I am no longer able to weed without becoming a swollen, itchy mess.  So I was delighted to see him and see all the work he had already accomplished.  As much time as I spend sitting on our screened porch, having lovely beds to look at makes the porch even more of an oasis of peace for me.

4) Porches and Patios Tour - Several years ago, some educator friends from varying districts started getting together to talk about technology, our classrooms, and our lives.  Our conversations originally were centered around the queso dip we all loved.  It has morphed into something altogether different now.  In the winter, we gather at our favorite Mexican restaurant to share queso and talk, but in the summer, we begin what we like to call our Porches and Patios Tour.  In this tour, we circulate our meetings to our various porches and patios.  Great food yesterday, followed by our summer staple, Handel's ice cream.  Smart women, great conversations, LOTS of laughter,

wonderful food = lovely afternoon.

5) AllWrite - Looking ahead just a bit, I am very excited to be headed to Warsaw, Indiana, for AllWrite this next Wednesday.  Another favorite staple of summer will happen then - #carPD!

Thanks for stopping by - I hope there were celebrations in your week as well.  For more celebrations, visit Ruth Ayres' blog.  Thanks so much to Ruth for hosting this happy celebration event each Saturday!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Celebrate! - June 7

I am celebrating several things this week:

1) Tuesday became my official first day of summer break.  I loved my students and we learned so much together this year, but there is a joy that accompanies the flexibility of a summer schedule.  Exercise when I want, including that 8:30 AM yoga class with the instructor I love.  Going to Book Club in the middle of the afternoon.  Breakfast with a friend.  Time to do errands, make phone calls, schedule appointments.  Time to sit on the screened porch and read.

2) My birthday present arrived this week, and is now on our screened porch.  I love this loveseat, and all the promises it offers of friends gathering, great book reading and cozy nap taking.

3) I went Thursday night to one of the many premieres offered at our local theatre for The Fault in Our Stars.  My youngest daughter pre-ordered our tickets, we munched happily on popcorn, and then got lost in the wonderful-ness of this movie, complete with buckets of tears.

One of my mentor text areas
4) After 2 1/2  full days, my living room went from a war zone, where not an inch of carpet was visible, and there were piles of books and supplies on every piece of furniture, to two separate areas of mentor texts, with all my professional books on the very sturdy bookshelf in our actual den.  Such a hard job, but this space now allows me to focus on helping teachers meet readers and writers' needs next year in reading and writing workshop.

Purchases from Cover to Cover
Thanks to Mandy for this picture!
5) On Friday, I gathered with fellow Columbus area bloggers for breakfast and book buying at our wonderful local independent children's bookstore, Cover to Cover.  As Mandy mentions, it can become a dangerous proposition to be in a room with that many book lovers, as well as the wonderful staff at CTC, and try to stick to any type of a book budget.  I cherish our times together.

Thanks for stopping by - I hope there were celebrations in your week as well.  For more celebrations, visit Ruth Ayres' blog.  Thanks so much to Ruth for hosting this happy celebration event each Saturday!