Saturday, January 2, 2016

Celebrate! - Jan. 2, 2016

Thanks so much to Ruth for creating a community that celebrates together (even if some of us only show up sporadically).

The past 13 months, have been an emotional roller coaster for me. Losing Mom last December and Dad dying just this past July. One daughter flying from the central Ohio nest to live in Nashville, the other daughter finding her way back to central Ohio. An amazing family trip to Jackson, Wyoming this summer that allowed me to indulge in some old memories of when I lived there for a year and create a whole bunch of new memories with my family. A lovely trip to Hilton Head in the spring with my husband. An incredibly rejuvenating trip to NCTE in Minneapolis.

It's been a year of ups and downs, and sometimes, just finding myself unaware of what was coming next.

So, with that thought in mind, I have decided on my #OLW for 2016 - savor.

I plan to savor the expected, and unexpected moments around me this year:
family, friends, professional learning opportunities, trips and vacations, food,  books,  exercise.

I realize that life itself is meant to be savored, so I could continue with this list.  But, for now, I am planning to savor the company of old friends this evening and spending time with my oldest daughter this afternoon. My hope that living in the moment and savoring the expected, and unexpected, allows for 2016 to be a year I lead with my heart.

Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Nerdy Awards - Nonfiction Picture Book Category

I love the week the Nerdy awards begin to be announced! With so many fabulous books published for children each year, it is hard for them to all get the accolades they so deserve. That's why this week at the Nerdy Book Club blog is such a celebration - we are celebrating the best and the brightest books in many different categories.

I am delighted to be the person who announced the Nonfiction Picture Book winners today! Check it out if you haven't already, and don't forget to follow the other Nerdy winners the rest of the week!!!!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

#Celebrate! - 12/5/15

I love that Ruth hosts a community of celebration each Saturday. When world events and things close to home make me weary, I so enjoy my escape into the celebrations posted here. Thanks so much Ruth for nurturing a community of "JOY"!

The first thing I would like to celebrate is the return to my blog. For a variety of reasons, I have felt unmotivated as a writer. But thanks to #WriteDaily30, organized by Linda Urban. I am setting a goal to write something for myself or for public consumption each and every day this month. All writers that joined put their goal or their progress in a spreadsheet shared by all, and then we leave comments for one another daily. A powerful motivator to write and a huge celebration!

Second, this week I would like to celebrate my parents and making it through Thanksgiving. This holiday was my parents' absolute favorite - my dad liked to cook the turkey using his engineering skills - depending on the size of the turkey, he had a regression chart to tell you how long you needed to cook the bird - and no I'm not making that up! Mom and Dad loved having us gather at their home, all sitting around one table, enjoying their food, and then following the meal, joining in some cutthroat family games; ones where Mom always stacked the teams so she was guaranteed to win. Last Thanksgiving, they were not physically able to prepare the meal, so we celebrated the holiday at my brother's house. But since then, Mom died last December and Dad died in July. The remaining family knew it would be a tough holiday, but we had a lovely time together, eating incredibly well and yes, still playing those cutthroat games. I think Mom would be so pleased to see how I channeled her competitive nature and beat my nieces and eldest daughter in a game of Spoons. :)

Finally, I have much more to say about this in future posts, but I want to celebrate #ncte15.  I know this happened a few weeks ago, but I haven't really talked about it a lot. While I know not all educators are in an ideal situation where they work, I left #ncte15 with my spirit having been lifted up. So many conversations about keeping joy in our profession, so many educators sharing smart philosophies and practices, so many like-minded friends/colleagues coming together to refine our practices and feel the support of others - that is a true celebration!

Hope this week brings something to celebrate for everyone.

Monday, October 26, 2015

#IMWAYR - Oct. 26, 2015

I'm so happy to be back and sharing my reading life on Mondays. Thanks to Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for hosting #IMWAYR each and every Monday!!

It was a fun reading week for me. I read one picture book and 3 middle grade chapter books. I loved each one of them for different reasons.

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall - I loved this book!!! It read like a combination of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life and Touching Spirit Bear. Much like the latter, it involved an adult stepping up to propose an alternative punishment than going to juvenile jail for the main character. Like the former, the main character needs to discover the truly important things in life. Add to that, Pearsall based this story on something incredible that actually exists now at a Smithsonian museum.  Great read!

Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Elis Smith - This is another story that has the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina (quite a few of those this year), but what makes this story unique is that "hurricane" can mean more than the storm that forms out in the ocean. In this story, hurricane also is a feeling you get when you live near a mountain in Vermont and a tragic event occurs. The dual story lines of the character living through Hurricane Katrina and the character trying to escape Vermont, though a bit far fetched, truly worked for me.

Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb - This was a find at last week's Junior Library Guild Warehouse sale. I loved that the setting was in Ohio, on a small island located in Lake Erie, off the shore from Toledo. The twist of having an island story be something located in the Midwest made it fun for me. Great characters, family dynamics that occur that no one else even realizes, the ups and downs of friendships, and even a teacher who maybe found her true calling again through a conversation with the main character (an avid reader!) - all wonderful reasons to read this gem.

Neighborhood Sharks by Katharine Roy - This picture book is fabulous told with a narrative line as well as page after page after interesting facts about this Great White Shark. I'm not sure what took me so long to read this book, but it will be a mentor text I share with many colleagues!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Words Matter - #SOL Sept. 22

Thanks to all the wonderfully smart women at Two Writing Teachers who host this gathering each week. It is a lovely place to capture and share those small moments in life.

Recently, I was sitting on my screened porch, doing some writing. While the screened porch is one of my favorite places to be, this particular writing activity had been weighing heavily on me for awhile and I was dreading it. I was writing the thank you notes for all the kindnesses shown to our family when my dad died this summer.

I think I put it off for so long because, after Mom died in December, and then Dad died a scant seven months later, writing these thank you notes meant there would be some closure around my parents' deaths and I wasn't quite ready for that.

But, through the days I procrastinated on this activity, I started to think about all the words that had meant so much to us as a family this past year:

  • The kind words on each sympathy card that made its way to our mailbox.
  • The words people used during calling hours to talk about what a positive impact my parents had on their lives.
  • The words my brother gathered and arranged into eulogies for our parents - words that captured the special and unique qualities of both of them.
  • The words the granddaughters used when sharing their favorite memories about their grandparents.
  • At the memorial service for Dad, the words that a variety of people chose to share with the entire group.
  • The comforting words on the cards accompanying the flower arrangements that added such a lovely touch to each service.
  • The letters received from cousins recalling memories of their times with my parents and how much those experiences had meant to them.
  • The online words: emails, text messages, Facebook messages, Voxes - these were words of comfort.
And then, one day, I had a big "aha" moment about my grief and moving through it - WORDS MATTERED. 

Words mattered during my grief, and the least I could do was to share my words of appreciation for the gifts of concern and kindnesses we had received as a family. So, while those thank you notes were not my favorite task to do on the screened porch, I could only hope that my words of appreciation mattered to the recipient of each thank you. I know your words most definitely mattered to me!

Monday, September 21, 2015

#IMWAYR - September 21

A huge thank you to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for cohosting the kidlit version of It's Monday, What Are You Reading? I love it personally to find out what others are reading, and, as a coach, I love to share it with teachers to help them find new titles to share with their own students.

I haven't contributed for awhile, but in the last week, I've read some books that are definitely worth sharing.

I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien caught my attention because of the front cover. As there is a  call for more diversity in books and the need for all children to see themselves in a book, this is a picture book that would do just that. The story focuses on 3 children that are new to a school in America. Each student spends a great deal of time thinking about the talents they had in their former homes; now, the language, the words, the writing, their contributions in class are difficult for them, and leads to sadness and confusion. There is a nice shift within the story that allows each child to feel some success with his/her classmates by the end of the book, but I wonder if that is a simplification of  the actuality. Regardless, the story would lead to great conversations within classroom communities.

See You Next Year by  Andrew Larsen and Todd Stewart was another lovely story about a family that returns to the same beach each year. This would be a great book to use with students in a narrative writing unit. I especially like the narrator's story about the Sunday at the beach, beginning with watching the tractor on the beach as it rakes the beach, and ending with the people leaving the beach in the evening and the gulls returning. Not all children will have the background knowledge or experience to relate to this story, so finding multiple books about experiences children might have would be good.

Leo: A Ghost Story written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Christian Robinson is a testament to children's imagination and the value of friendship. Leo is a ghost who is not appreciated by the new family who moved into his house, leading him to leave that home and search for something better. I love the words and illustrations that occur when Leo encounters Jane, who has decorated the sidewalk with imaginative drawings and asks him if he wants to play Knights of the Round Table with her. I love the nods to creativity and friendship.

Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff Anderson was a fun frolic. I looked forward to this book because it was by Jeff, and I so enjoyed the story - quirky characters whose storylines come together in humorous, and sometimes empathetic ways. This is a slice of middle school that Jeff writes very well.

I hope you all have a great week of reading!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Celebrating Six New Colleagues

Thanks to Ruth for creating a community where celebration at the end of each week occurs!

Our school district hired many, many new teachers this year. However, this week, I am celebrating the good fortune my school district had in their hires of six specific new-to-our-district teachers. They all came with years of experience; some a few, some more. But the thing they all have in common - a passion for learning.

I am the literacy coach in four different elementary buildings; three of those buildings hired these six new teachers. I reached out to them this summer, as soon as my building administrators informed me of their hires. I welcomed them to their respective buildings, and I shared some district literacy learning opportunities available to them during the summer. I also offered to meet with them at different times to talk about what reading workshop, writing workshop, and word study might look like in their classrooms.

Here is why I am celebrating after our first week of school:

  • Every single new-to-our-district teacher availed themselves of one, or more, of the summer learning opportunities available to them.
  • Many of them attended the weekly summer literacy chats the coaches hosted.
  • Many of them attended our district's two day summer Leadership Academy where they attended sessions to help them with student learning in their classrooms.
  • All but one (and she had prior summer commitments) sat in my house for hours over several days as we talked about the components of workshop.
  • I was invited into many of their classrooms this summer as these teachers were setting them up to help organize or think about spaces for student learning.
  • With one group of three, we were able to sit down together and talk about the components and expectations for word study in our district.
  • They all expressed their gratitude for all the amazing professional development opportunities in which they had taken part.
  • They are all learners and continue to engage in conversations with me and their other colleagues on how best to help children learn.
  • They all have expressed how lucky they feel to be part of a district that supports their professional growth.
And me... Well, I feel quite fortunate to coach and collaborate with these new-to-district teachers who value learning and PD. How lucky am I??!! I look forward to this year of collaboration with all of them!