Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sliding onto a Mat: March 31, 2015 Slice of Life Challenge 31/31 (I'm there!) #solc15

After a long day, long month, long winter...racing home on a Tuesday night to catch the SLOW, energetic flow class was just what the doctor ordered today. I honestly wish I'd discovered yoga years ago. But a good friend of mine always tells me we're never late--as long as we eventually arrive where we belong.

I belong in yoga; a non-sport, non-judgmental energetic adventure that brings me to a place of candles and warmth and wanderings I'd never even imagined before. 

A long line of energy flows from the top of my scalp  to the very tip of my toes. I reach high into the heavens and arc back just a bit. Then the length of me reaches and stretches, upward dog and downward dog, pigeon pose, and poses that sometimes leave me dangling in mid-air perpendicular to the wood floor. 

One moment, I am a goddess, the next I am a warrior ready to face the world.

In the end, my worn-out body stretches long over my blue mat, I curve my spine upward then bring it back down, hoist myself up and plow my toes toward the sky...then all at once toss them again toward the back of the room. And last, I return, one vertebrae at a time to the floor for a long, meditative shavasana...
reclining pose. 


Yoga. Is. Life...
a hard-working teacher's best friend.
Happiness lives inside the practice, and my family, my friends,
my students and the rest of the world deserve a happier me.

Thank you to TWO WRITING TEACHERS AND TO ALL THE OTHER TEACHERS...THE SLICERS, WHO ENCOURAGED ME AND ALLOWED ME TO SHARE THEIR LIVES THIS MONTH! WHAT A GREAT MONTH IT'S BEEN!

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I've participated in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. What a great way to keep story threading through my brain each day.
        

Monday, March 30, 2015


Today, I got to thinking about Spring Break. It's a four-day week filled with lots to do, but heck...a girl can dream, right? And then as soon as the thought entered my brain, I started to think about an old friend I haven't visited in a long time...Welcome Back Sun, by Michael Emberley. This beautifully illustrated story highlights a small Norwegian village, waiting for murketiden, or murky time, the time of darkness to end. The young girl in the story wants badly to follow the path of another young girl of legend who trekked through the mountains to lead the sun back to the valley.

When I open this book, I am that girl. Waiting, not as much for light, but for the arrival of that feeling of warmth on my cheeks and my shoulders...the tossing of a coat for a sweater, and best of all to put on a pair of shorts and sandals again.

This year, that sun's warmth has a taken a long, long time to show its face. Winter has pelted us over and over again. This morning we woke up to another pelting. But in the background, I could hear the distant sound of the birds, and the geese landing on the pond below my house. I know it's coming.

But...winter, with it's grainy snow,  still clings to this landscape.

And so, I've made a radical decision. I'm tossing in the towel. I'm tired of this long, long wait. I am, just like this little girl, heading over the mountains and flying and then driving to Sedona--hot, hot Sedona. I know, it may not be that hot there in April. But hopefully, I'll be able to find a warm seat somewhere, curl up with a great book, and soak up a bundle of sun!

And when I come back, I'll be sure to bring back a mega-dose of sun's warmth for all my friends who've lived through this torrid winter with me too!


Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.
        

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Many Faces of Early Spring! March 29, 2015: Slice of Life Challenge #solc15


Nature, Mother Nature...oh what a terribly wonderful thing. What I love most about early Spring is the unrelenting dog-fight it seems to wage with Winter to just let it pass, and give us all some relief!
Today, I spent a couple hours with my buddy. I was bundled and wrapped with  a hat and a hood and a scarf and mittens! I was taking no chances after the crazy snowy day we had yesterday. I figured we'd have a quick jaunt up the hill and then a long walk back on the paved path.

Reilly had other ideas:


Ah, c'mon...we haven't been back in the woods in months.

So I followed. NO WATER, I yelled...

                            
                            But, I'm pretty sure he was laughing at me!



                           And then, of course, next up, was the mud--I yelled, NO MUD!
                                                                             

                               
                 But, he squished his toes in the ooze and smiled right back at me.


                  

And then, finally he landed in a huge, grainy mound, and waited. 

                                                              Got snowballs? 

                                                           And of course, I did.


    For this big pup,  this in-between time...Winter's chilly entry into Spring? 

     Could last forever--but not for me! Bring on the warmth. I'm ready for REAL Spring!


***A little shout-out to our TEAM 26, riding in this chilly spring weather two Washington, cycling to make a statement, to work for change...to take us out of this in-between world of horror, and help bring an end to school violence forever in the United States! (Go Monte!)

          

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.
        

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Books by the Millions! March 28, 2015 Slice of Life Challenge-#solc2015



Almost all my life, I've believed you can never have too many shoes, boots or books. In fact, if you looked at my closet, you could easily say I feel that way about sweaters and blouses and skirts. But now, my thinking is definitely undergoing a change.

Today was another in a series of Saturdays, emptying Grandma's house and filling up my car. Last night I went to the library and closed the place, lugging in bag after bag of books. And today...after spending the morning there, my car was filled up all over again! It took me about forty minutes to lug those books and place them in neat rows on the overflowing library sale cart.


Grandma loved her stuff. She loved little chotchkies from Christmas Tree Shoppes, and she loved linen and lace, but the thing she loved most in the world, apart from her grandkids and a good recipe, was definitely a good book and an hour or two to read. 

So today, I honored Grandma. I returned all her books to the place she probably loved best too--the library. And as I lugged those boxes and bags up the stairs and through the sliding doors, I just couldn't help but think there's got to be a chair in heaven and a special place filled with books--a gigantic reading room where Grandma can take all the time she needs to settle into a great book!





Friday, March 27, 2015

The Little Things-March 27, 2015: Slice of Life Challenge #sol15





Some days, especially Fridays in a week filled with conferences, report cards, meetings, Donuts with Dad and Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBACs), it's all I can do to grab my bag at the end of the day, close my door and find my way to the parking lot. Today was no exception.

On days like these, it really is the little things that we do for each other that give me that burst of energy, that human connection I crave.

I have a teaching buddy who, despite all that's thrown at him, never seems to be able to do anything but smile. And we have a tradition...we grab a cup of coffee, rarely have the time to drink it together, but at least stand there for the few minutes it takes for our Keurig to brew, to spoon in the sugar and pour a bit of cream in and stir. There's no time to hang around the coffee urn! But those simple five minutes help me put a smile on my face, and go back into my room and plan, or clean, or answer emails, or spend time reading my students' work.

Little things, to a teacher, mean a lot.

A few years ago, we had the best faculty meeting...ever. Don't get me wrong,  if I'm immersed in great professional development, you'll never hear me groan. But faculty meetings?
No sale. I keep an open mind while we move through all the news we need to know. But at this particularly cool faculty meeting--the best ever, I learned a new skill for life.

It was a very little thing.

On the table was a tiny brown, felt bag with a drawstring. Never being one to wait, I gave the little string a tug, and voila! Inside...a thin felt point pen, a pencil and a rolled paper made of cardstock for
shading. Zentangle! I'd never heard of it, or seen it anywhere in my world on the internet. Zentangle is the art of drawing small--immersing myself in the moment, the particular stroke I'm attempting to create.

Now? Two years later, I'm still using zentangling, escaping into a self-created small world as a means to relax. On Friday nights now, I grab my felt tipped pen, my zentangle journal, sink into my cushy gold couch. And when I put my pen to the page, I enter a completely new world. There are commitments, no plans...just me, the page, and whatever happens to pop into my head on its way to the pen!

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.
        

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Teaching Teddy Bears-March 26 Slice of Life Challenge: 26/31 #SOLC15





Teaching Teddy Bears


First, I asked for an easel,

and then I set it up,

right next to the tv set--

with the bunny-eared 

antenna.


Santa brought 

me other things--

a small ironing board,

and an iron.

A small doll with clothes.

Things that cost--

but were not dear to me.


I ran upstairs,

and snagged my teddy bears,

my bunny,

my kittens,

an old doll or two.

I propped them up

on the couch.


I grabbed the chalk,

white and pink

and green and orange,

with that horrible chalky 

smell.


I didn't care.

I was the teacher

and I had an audience,

God knows what I taught

my imagined pupils.

The cat, by then,

was long gone.


But I blathered on

anyhow--

that was what I imagined

from my own life in school--

that teachers should do!


And now,

each day,

as I swing wide my own

very real

classroom door--

they are my teachers!




We laugh,

we learn--we forge ahead,

a lifetime

of learning--

every day a new journey,

inspired by my

classroom

kids!


Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.
        









Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Little Engine that Can-March 25: Slice of Life Challenge 25/31 #solc15


It's been a long, long haul.

Over a very rugged terrain.

And for the very first time, publicly, I'm admitting to myself that even though I am and have been writing, finished up my YA novel...sent it out a bit, started scripting a MG novel, but I have really been running out of steam. Artistically stalled.

The events of 12/14, that horrible December day, despite my intent of moving forward, kept pulling me back and leaving me stuck. My work in the classroom has been focused on remaining upbeat and loving and supporting all the kids. I do love my kids! And that has taken priority over everything.

And then, this challenge rolled along. 

I decided to take the leap. I'd been spreading my writing all over the place, a little blog here, journal entry there...the red leather one with the heart, the gold leaf paisley one with the magnetic front next. Spreading it all out. The heartbreak, the feelings the thoughts about those feelings. 

But this month, I'm re-learning a little something about this little engine called writing. It is the Little Engine that Can. I can write daily, and in one place again. I can reveal and then revel in the feelings I see on the page. I will not ever be afraid to put it out there again. 

The groundswell...the heart, that once was broken, is a mighty heart. I live in a strong community. And we save each other through our words. Writing is a healing thing. Writing is what I know best.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Roses for the Teacher--March 24: Slice of Life Challenge 24/31-- #SOLC2015



Roses for the Teacher: Parent conferences today...

Nervousness and tension, 
like a fever,
grab hold
and crowd my sensibilities.
I find myself scrambling
at the last minute
for more...

Scraps and remnants,
grades and journals, reading logs
and a published piece or two.

What parents really want--
is not that...at all;
no papers, no data, 
no curriculum-based 
evidence.

A little slice,
a peek 
into a window:
their child's school life,
and mine--
a chance to walk away
knowing
that I totally get
their child,
that I have hopes 
and imaginings
too.

AND--

that I care
about their child
almost as much
as they do!


(Today, when I swung open the classroom door to invite my last parent in--she held the most beautiful array of red roses out to me. "From your husband," she said. And then she smiled, "He must love you an awful lot!")


Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.
        

Monday, March 23, 2015

When Reality Slips Away...and Imagination Takes Over--March 23: Slice of Life Challenge-#solc2015

 Today, I hit the jackpot. I reached in and pulled an old favorite off the shelf, and it felt so right. Teaching, like writing, is like that for me. Sometimes, I can put my hand on the just right book, and it becomes a bonanza. 

The Velveteen Rabbit was all that and more today. The text is amazing, and I chose it, rather than the other preselected text I'd planned, because I knew it held a little magic door that pulled its reader from disbelieving to the magical state of suspended disbelief. 

My teaching point was wide and sweeping at first--"Readers! Pay Attention. Fantasy is a genre of mysteriously tangled plots, twisted characters and magical settings that test our sense of reality!"
We talked again about character driven versus plot driven storylines, and we dabbled into sharing about books we've read, and that knowing point at which the author has us in the palm of his or her hand. 

Margery Williams is a master, elegant, simple with a Silk Horse instantly becomes our sage.

Well, we didn't need to look far. Today, we read the page toward the end, where Bunny is left in the bracken, and the other two sharp-eyed rabbits come and test him...telling him there's no way he can be real! But Bunny knows better and he tells them so. After all the Boy has told him he is real. The boy has snuggled him, and loved him. But now, he feels that tingle, the little tickly feeling that makes him want to leap up and dance. 

He doesn't of course, not then anyway. That, is the tease. And that is the point when the author dangles the carrot, and we want so badly for him to leap in the air. The magical pen stroke of a masterful author! 

"Readers--today, I want you to find the place when you can feel that tickly feeling. The point in the book where the author creates that opening in the platform, and you find yourself completely sucked in!"

Author meets reader, and it is really is love at first (un)sight!
The ground falls away, senses take over and the heart leaps up for the dance!

Learning often has that tickly feeling, and today, it swept us all up and took us away!


Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.
        


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Grandma's House--March 22: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 20/31


Today was a day at Grandma's House, one of the last in a series of cleaning, emptying, rearranging and reimaginings.

Each time we come, we know we're moving along the timeline toward the end zone for this wonderful home on the hill. March has always been a particularly busy month here. The month of March is populated with birthdays, and April is now too.

Every time I set foot on that front porch, even now with all the snow and ice, I see hanging ferns, white wicker, a family filling it with laughter and silliness, hors d'oeuvres and drinks. I see little kids rolling down the sloping hillside just to the right of the house. Teenagers plot and plan on the tall steps, watching the little ones for us. I remember the stories, the political debates, but mostly, I remember Grandma, and Grandpa too, listening to us all and taking it all in.

Today, we spent a lot of time in the attic and the basement, combing through the remnants of what's left to give away or toss. And today, I spent a lot of time, in my mind re-envisioning what it will be like for another family...maybe one with lots of kids, to live and laugh inside its walls.

After everybody else left, I sat in front for a few minutes and really choked back the tears. I've spent what feels like a lifetime coming to this house...first at the age of nineteen, the girlfriend, then later, the married woman hauling the grandkids...and even later, coming back just for the sake of enjoying conversation and a sandwich on a Sunday when nobody else was around.

Now, we're in the final phase. And I would like to think that all this work, all the lugging and un-combing and emptying is in some way a tribute to Grandma and Grandpa, taking care of a lifetime of things...that don't represent them, but give us a chance to consider every little thing and think about each other and what means most to all. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Racing with an Angel--March 21: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 14/31

Today was a day of celebration. A day of coming together and rallying around a family, a community, and most importantly, a little boy.

I never knew this little boy, but I knew his favorite color was, and probably still is, red. I've been told by my friend Eunice, who knows everyone in our town, that this little boy loved bagels. And I know he loved baseball too. I've seen gorgeous pictures of him...ones that make me wish pictures had that 3D capacity, so I could reach in and pinch those cheeks of his.

I've known his sister, his mom, and his dad. A family I've grown to love very much. So, I guess that gives me a glimmer of his essence, but not really that dive in deep close look.

I am a teacher, a lover of kids and families and life. And today, James gave us a chance to celebrate him and that very special life that comes to us in early spring. There we were, walking together, at first in a soft, silent falling snow, but then later...at the end of the race, in that very first inkling, that warm gust, of spring! A miracle!

Happy Birthday in heaven, James! We knew you were there in our midst! I hope to always be able to walk, to hug, to think of what could have been...but to be reminded about the ever soft fragility of life!

The present is our present to one another, the beautiful red balloon we have to remember to hang onto each and every day.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Before that...March 20, Slice of Life Challenge: SOLC 2015 20/31

Today, I went to Two Writing Teachers for a little morning inspiration. Ideas come from everywhere in my universe, but for now I decided to dig into that well. I'm posting from a post shared by another writer, who borrowed the idea from someone else. It's called Spin!



Ideas are the little generators, that lift us up, and make time, thought and ideas travel all over the world!

So, here's my Slice from yesterday, an evening when my husband went off to a concert and spent the night out, and I had the house to myself. (Well almost!)



Yesterday, I went to bed with a story, Grave Mercy, on my kindle in my hand.
Before that...I let my giant yellow puppy out to take his last tour of the yard.
Before that...I messaged back and forth with an old writing friend, Lynda Mullaly Hunt.
Before that...I ordered her book, and Jo Knowles' book online.
Before that...I downloaded Kate Messner's new book, 59 Reasons to Write,  and took a deep look inside.
Before that...I cruised around on the Pinterest in search of inspiration to teach the persuasive piece.

Before that...I braved the cold and bundled up and took the golden one for a walk.
Before that...I picked up a you-pick-two, a salad and turkey chili to eat.
Before that...I stayed late at school, reading emails, filling out forms and trying to decompress.
Before that...I met with a teaching friend, and we talked about life, and then what we're teaching next.
Before that...I logged myself and my twenty-two into our Smarter Balanced Tests.
Before that...I savored a luxurious hour of mixing and mingling with kids around books.
Before that...I snuggled up with Masterpiece, our interactive read-aloud by the masterful Elise Broach.
Before that...I checked into the teachers' lunch room and joked around with my friends in the crowd.
Before that...I ate a small bar, and drank a cup of tea, checking my emails at my computer for lunch.
Before that...my kids and I generated fun, fantasy poems.
Before that...I immersed myself in reader's workshop conferences, upping our input in posting our thinking about books.

Before that...I visited Mr. Lemoncello's Library, Harry Potter's Hogwarts, and a dragon-slayer's den!
Before that...I joked around with my kids about what we had for dinner in homeroom.
Before that...I put my key, dangling off a soft pink ribbon into the lock, and the lights popped on in my room.

Before that...I kissed my husband, scratched my puppy's belly, and drove down the driveway to school.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I am...the Teacher--March 19: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 19/31

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.
        (Today's Slice inspired by Betsy at Two Writing TEACHERS. Check it out there!)



I am...

the teacher,

the one who takes

the time

to organize,

and plan, to hold a hand

and help.


I am...

the teacher,

the one who steps

on the stage--

and then sends them

away,

to practice and learn

with a watchful eye,

and a gentle, but firm,

interruptive

voice.

I add a little

here,

to clarify there.

I keep everyone on

a straight and

narrow.

and sometimes curvy path.


I am not...

a tester,

a data collector,

an uncreative

statistician.



My calling

for that, thankfully

has never

come.


Encouragement

can not be

quantified,

Creativity

can not be

captured.



Numbers do not

make the essence

of the man,

the woman,

the child.


I am...

the proud facilitator

of children.

The one who tries

to get inside their hearts--

and heads,

and make learning

inspire the hearts and minds

of kids.



I am

the teacher!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Puppy Waits-March 18: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 18/31


Waiting


At the end of the day,

a very long day,

I edge my car 

down the drive.

And up on a snowbank

a golden puppy

waits

for me.


I haul out the work bag,

the grocery bags,

and at last, the mail.


And a golden puppy

waits 

for me.


And when the garbage can

gets dragged

down to the street,

That sweet golden 

puppy

still waits.



So when tired feet 

crest the hill,

it's no surprise

to see his sparkling eyes,

that gaping smile,

his wagging tail,

my golden puppy

who waits.


For a chance to

dance

to snuggle and prance

then wander off...and play in the snow,

his snow

again.





Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Celebrations--March 17: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 17/31

Happy Birthday to the Sweetest Guy I Know...


Tonight, a small

birthday,

came and went.

A small celebration--

with no fanfare,

no fireworks,

just a guy, my guy

 and me.


A million years ago,

when I was really uneasy...in conversations,

in restaurants,

we somehow

managed to find something

or two things

to say.



But now, we've lived a lifetime

of conversations,

and then some.



We've lived a lifetime of childish

college ways--

with a lifetime

of equally childish,

but enormously funny

friends.


We've had babies,

and those babies

became toddlers,

then teens.


And now they've

left the nest,

but we still celebrate

them.


We've celebrated

promotions, and houses,

and summer vacations.

We've crossed the country,

and traced our roots,

traveled to the Super Bowl

and the Shore.


And every year,

we savor this lifetime.


We love and laugh--

and remember--

and then, with even

more conversation,

we eat a great meal,

and celebrate

and love

some more!




Monday, March 16, 2015

Reporting in on Report Cards--March 16: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 16/31


Report card season. Again.

In my early years of teaching, I loved to play dress-up in a way. I was trying out all the big girl jobs that teachers have to do, report cards, bulletin boards, correcting papers, you know the drill. But when report cards came along, I'd agonize for hours, trying to create a snapshot of each student that would help parents know how well I understood their child. (I loved putting up bulletin boards too.)

But now, I just want it all to go away. No more tests, no more report cards, I want to teach the curriculum and meet the standards and report about it in my own invented way. 

The truth is, kids, most kids anyway, love report cards. They like that long term mega-snap shot, super summative system we call grades. I wonder sometimes, though, what it's like to be a kid seeing your report card on a blue screen. We now live in a paperless world. Do you still get that quarter for an A? 

My brother sent me a couple of old report cards recently. Across the front of the envelope of my fourth grade report card was my dad's perfectly formed Catholic school script, "I'm so proud of you, Gaelie!" And my heart just swelled. I remembered that report card, and I remembered the Kennedy half dollar I'd gotten that year. 

So today? At seven in the evening, I was lost and searching for the right word, and I didn't see my custodian walk in. Until...he started laughing. It was a deep belly laugh, and I almost jumped out of my chair. 

I looked down at my hands, scratching aimlessly at the keys, and back up at the blue screen. And I had to check myself, because I think a few words might have slipped out of my mouth. 
"Argumentative, resistant...frequently defensive--at times, right?"

I looked at him then, and we both started to laugh. "The truth hurts," he said. 

And then I looked back at the screen. Resistant...at times. Yes, that one. The truth is, for this one, "resistant at times" is huge progress. A little injection of student choice has helped him along the way. 

Capturing a student in grades, though, now seems so old-fashioned to me. And reducing them to a series of numbers just seems inane too. I sometimes wonder how and why it all switched gears like this. There was a great time when we were talking about compiling portfolios...formative learning, and showcasing performance in that way. I know I can still do this, of course. I'm always so proud of my students' work. 

But things have changed, and I'm hoping they'll change again soon. Will that pendulum ever swing back the other way?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Warmth Underneath: March 15: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 15/31

Despite the cold and the greyness and that gritty lingering snow, I feel somewhat uplifted today,
just being able to hang outside at all. I don't see any flowers in the meadows yet, nor are the robins flocking to my back lawn. (I don't see the lawn yet, either.)

But there's a warmth underneath that chill out there.

I'm not clenching as I open the back door. Little rivers pool up along the driveway and cascade down the hill.

Evidence of this winter's damage is everywhere. Sunken portions of blacktop, gaping cracks along the driveway, and today, I looked up and saw the brown metal strip, the flashing, along the chimney is gone and parts of the gutter look loose. Inside walls, once puffed out and bulging with water, have split and in some cases have retracted back in leaving sagging wrinkles of deep beige paint, which was, the repair from three years ago.

But there is a warmth underneath the chill out there.

Snow mountains ebb, and in another week or so, spring's warmth will rise up from the chill.
The crocuses never had their chance, but the daffodils and tulips and magnolias will dot the landscape and give us the absolute thrill of our lives, because we sure have earned it this year!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Expanded Horizons-March 14: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 14/31


We're almost there! We've spent a little more than eight weeks, digging deep into the Westward Expansion Movement, working hard to come to understand the people that braved the elements to give up life in the east and take the enormous risk of spreading across the land. The parallels between these trailblazers and the huge loss experienced by the native tribes has not been lost of my kids. We've had many chances to stop and process, and then go home and ruminate some more.

But what happened yesterday was not necessarily so much content, but the process of high interest and high motivational practices in my students that really left me in awe of them. Our outcome for this process of weeks of working in research teams, in books that are properly leveled, and in using trusted websites to view videos and research through reading on the internet...is now boiling down to an informational book.

The unit stretched through snow days and is now, at its culmination, bumping up against the next wave of testing too.

It was the kids, though, who pushed forward, because they had a tremendous sense of internal motivation, grit and satisfaction in the writing, revising again, and again even toward the end. And then when they reached the point of constructing their books, they really hit a point of glee.

So yesterday, in a day filled with all sorts of surprises and a ton of face to face work with kids--they decided they were going to have a working snack...and then a working lunch too. In other words, they wanted to stay with me! I said to them, though..."You've been in for indoor recess all winter long!" They said, "It doesn't matter, we're having so much FUN!"

Fun! Boy, how could I refuse that? I told them, I'm not going to be able to pay a lot of attention to you, though. "You mean you're going to shun us?" the said.

Yeah, right. Shun them? I don't think so! Before I knew it, we were elbow to elbow with our lunches, with scissors and construction paper, hole punchers, markers, and string. It was a project day in the classroom, and we were having a blast getting the writing just right, and getting that very satisfying process done.

And as I look back on the unit, the learning, and the level of motivation in my kids, it's so great to see how the American story, the evolution of a culture captivated their interests and expanded their learning horizons in huge leaps and bounds!

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Writing without Sight--March 13: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 13/31

Writing without Sight

I woke up this morning, long before my alarm clock, thinking...thinking, thinking, thinking. I couldn't get back to sleep. My teacher's mind, last night, was a very, very busy place. How often we speak of and know and experience the benefits of reflection, but sometimes it can all go too far. That is where the true benefit of writing comes in for me.

I can actually think too much, reflect too much, and drive myself crazy with things that are out of my control.

So today, I got up, way too early, I know--and sought out the perfect release for me. For a long time, I'd dipped in and then out of Julia Cameron's daily morning pages book, The Artist's Way.


Morning writing, emptying myself of external distractions by putting it all down on the page, has freed me to be more open to my own creative path. Three pages each day, every day. For a while, I filled binders with thoughts and ramblings, clearing the way for characters in my fiction writing to become vivid and then fill up a different page.

But lately, I have not been writing...not fictionally, anyway. This month, blogging daily, has got me back in story mode. But there's a lot I'd never say publicly, and I do need to clear my brain every day. The dishes get run through the dishwasher, and my cluttered brain needs a good washing too.

So this morning, sitting upright, I've processed my worries and put them away.

The creative inside me is ready to being to play--an idea I saw on Tara's page at Two Writing Teachers has popped into my head from yesterday. It was a wonderful piece yesterday about how often in writing we overdo it on the visuals and short change the other senses in our work.

So...Writing without Sight--(well, almost)

I sit in darkness, with nothing but the palest light of the moon. The heating unit rattles and kicks up a blast of warmth that toasts by just-out-of-bed cold feet. Padding paws followed me up a creaky wooden ramp, first into the linoleum-floored kitchen, then a the darkened sunroom. A soft velvet couch cushion awaits, and my large puppy, a shadow coated in black, plops down and begins to lick, lick, lick laying atop his cushioned bed. It's way too early for food...and somehow he knows not to beg.

Morning wind kicks up outside, windows rattle, and the rich smell of strong coffee, once again, fills my nostrils and calls my name. But it's the soft sound of a snoring dog, his wet nose stretched over my bare feet, that holds me there, captivated by this soft golden mass of fur. Time stands still...no thoughts, no worries, I'm caught in this moment willing to stay here for as long as he needs.

But then, my alarm sounds...he pops up and stretches, and that wet nose is poking my knee. Now is the time, he knows, for his favorite sound; the cascading crunchies rattling the sides of his porcelain bowl. Time for the morning feast!

I love these early writing mornings. Time and thought stand still. Because I am, unlike that snow globe, filled with thoughts and worries and sensations when laying down, often more settled, released when awake.

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March 12: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 12/31


Ode to a Morning Cup

On Monday, I wait...push snooze--two times, close my eyes,
and pull the covers back over my head.

By Tuesday, darkness lingers, and I linger too. How can this time come--
so soon?

Wednesday! Hump day! A golden monster nudges me with his nose, licks my face and threatens to jump up...

Thursday, which is still not Friday, is the hardest of all--
I peek up at the diamond-shaped window, 
clouds crowd a small slip of a moon.

Is it not still night?

Is there no time to roll back?

And then, a sudden waft calls from the kitchen--

In my mind's eye, there it is--

My cup and my spoon.

The dog leaps up, and I leap up too.

My morning cup--
its smell, its warmth, its creamy goodness will perform its magic!

Its speaks in sensory details...

This day, with all its surprises, is waiting...

And later, 

a soft pillow will wait too!







Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Feeling Giddy! March 11: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 11/31 2015



I was a puppy, pressing my nose against the screen today. Temps soared to 52 degrees, the sun was shining, the sky was a deep blue. But when I looked out at the massive snowdrifts still piled up on the playground, the fields and the parking lot, it was hard to imagine it looking any other way.

It was a curriculum writing day...doing the less glamorous behind the scenes work that most teachers really don't want to do. But for some reason still unknown to me, I actually love watching ideas unfold and concepts take shape in a frame. I can sit for an hour and ponder the perplexities of standards and essential questions, learning targets and the map itself. It's like moving the furniture and then filling the walls with pictures and carpets and little nicknacks to fill the space.

But still...

The sun's warmth waited. And I waited too.

At the end of a long day, I packed my bags and decided to take the leap of faith and throw my big old down coat over my arm. I pushed my way through the double glass doors and set my sights on the many errands I had to do before I got home.

It was then that the giddiness began to sink in...the moment just before I'd normally tense my jaw and tighten the rest of me too. The cold...that snap of wind that hits me in the face from the corner of the building each and every winter day--was gone!

The sun's warmth, and only it's warmth, settled over me, and soon I realized that all that waiting was so, so worth it! Turn the page--poof! In the blink of an eye, it was gone!

Sure, the buds and the flowers and the peepers are waiting, but for now, I'll settle for the small surprises, the lessening of winter's grip and the forward motion toward spring!

                                                Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Teaching Mindfully: March 10: Slice of Life Challenge

                                                    Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Yesterday, amid the test practice, grade book closing, mid-year principal conference, scheduling of parent conferences and scoring of essays, I took a moment to stretch, step back and catch my breath. Right now, without even mentioning all the outside responsibilities that are converging right now--I evaluated how I was living inside my skin. 

In front of me was an eager group of kids, with pencils in my hand, hanging on every word...my mini-lesson, seven minutes of set-up in an hour of writing and conferencing, goading (yes, goading...there is that one), and facilitating teams in interactions around their pieces too. I love writing. I love talking it, walking it and pushing kids forward to get the job done. But yesterday, like today, I too have a lot on my plate. 

But most important of all are the beautiful faces, the positive energy that exists inside my room. I sometimes think, if I can just stay with my kids, dodge the testing, the grades, the report cards and the evaluations, I'd probably never come up for air. 

Teachers live in the real world. We are a loyal group. We have an endless stream of responsibilities, but every now and then, I try to remember--you just gotta come up for air!
Because the kids in front of me today won't always be here tomorrow. They'll grow up, and have kids of their own and their kids will have kids too. Teaching into infinity is a mindful job. I always have to remember, that what's happening in the moment, right in front of my face, is the most important thing.

So today, when I get a chance, I'm going to revisit a favorite book, it always keeps me grounded when I'm feeling a little unhinged. Teaching is an act of the spirit, a gift we've been given for ourselves. Aligning myself with the needs of children, rather than the politics of numbers that have taken the day, I will find, what I always do--the comfort and satisfaction, the laughter and silliness, because I am present to serve and hear and know all that I'm supposed to, for one moment, the gift I've been given for today.

The Three Questions, by Jon Muth, a great book for me today!








Monday, March 9, 2015

A Life Filled with Cupcakes--March 9: Slice of Life Challenge


Slice of Life Challenge: For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.





Cupcakes

frosted, sprinkled

layered in chocolate,

vanilla and strawberry

too;


Paper-wrapped on the outside

in pinks and greens

and blues

with polka-dots, hearts

and cute little teddybears

too.


These sweet, delectable

puffs of cake

whose calorie count

adds up

to nine hundred and

eighty two--

cross my desk

and wait...

for the weakened.


If--

in my teaching years,

I gave way to

temptation?


My waist-size

would measure

a hundred

and

sixty two!


Cupcakes!


(In the style/but hardly the talent, of my beloved Valerie Worth: All the Small Poems, and Fourteen More; dedicated to the memory of a teaching pal from years ago, Dave Carrington, "the Duke," who ate many a cupcake for me!)



There was an error in this gadget