Posted in Family, Literacy, Slice of Life, Writing

Reluctant #SOL19

Reluctant. His preschool teacher never came out and said it. Nor did we hear it in kindergarten.

But I knew, as an educator, every time I looked at his writing he could only be described as reluctant. He has always been the master of filling his time with pictures, writing as little as possible across each page. He has never been one to pick up a coloring book or to write for fun, and I’ve had to force him into creating one-color birthday cards for Grandma and Grandpa.

But in December, almost halfway through first grade, things started to shift. He brought home a stack of “how to” books, passing them along to me silently from his backpack and immediately running off to play. Page after page was filled with instructions on how to live life, including my very favorite: “How to Not Be Bord.” (Page 1: Go to the library.)

Last week, I found this book on my kitchen counter, a six-page ranking of his favorite dinosaurs and why each one was the best, complete with a detailed picture of each one.

Dilophosaurus is in first place because he has acid power. Another reason he won is because he eats meat.

Then today, as we drove away from school, I knew for sure that reluctant has given way to engaged when he announced, “Writer’s Workshop was just too short today, Mom! We barely had any time! I only wrote one page and started a second one and she said it was time to stop writing!”

He may still use only one color. He may still write short books. But my son has officially realized that writing is worth his time. And there’s nothing reluctant about that.

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Posted in Literacy

It Used to Be a Popular Thing #SOL19

My 4-year-old came home from school yesterday convinced that it’s time to get her ears pierced. The reason? A beautiful, shiny pair of silver coat buttons from the school art box that she thinks will look amazing in her earlobes.

After a few tearful moments because we couldn’t get them pierced right now, we tabled the conversation…until this morning, when the buttons resurfaced in the cup holder of her car seat.

After playing with them for a few minutes, she casually remarked, “Can you imagine a boy with earrings?”

“Daddy used to have a pierced ear,” I told her, glancing in the rear view mirror to gauge her reaction.

WHAT?” A characteristically dramatic response, eyes wide, mouth hanging open. “Daddy had EARRINGS?”

I was about to explain further when my son, ever the pragmatic one in the family at age 6, jumped in, “You know, that used to be kind of a popular thing.”

I couldn’t help laughing at the truth of his statement. As adults, there are so many things we accept about the world, sometimes failing to acknowledge when time keeps marching on. How many things, I wonder, used to be popular but are still near and dear to my heart?

Posted in Literacy, One Little Word, Reading, Reflection, Slice of Life, Writing

Beyond Setting Goals: Strategies for Focusing on Literacy in 2019 (For You and Your Students!)

Goals are easy to set and easy to forget. I myself have a whole page–front and back–of goals for the new year written in my journal right now. Many I will try to keep, but many (unfortunately) will probably be forgotten by March. Goals are a wonderful starting place and absolutely ground us in our beliefs, dreams, and desired destinations and achievements. But true success, I have found, lies in the habits you form–and the people who support you–along the way.

Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on how to transform myself as a reader, writer, teacher, and leader. What I’ve discovered is that it truly is all about the process, not the product. Along the way, I’ve discovered community, identity, and a love for literacy even beyond what I had before.

Not only have I grown, but I was also able to take many of these habits back to my own classroom to share with students and other teachers to spark their reading and writing, too.

Here are a few communities–some big, some small, all growing–that have had a tremendous impact on my focus on literacy:

  1. Slice of Life Writing challenges from the Two Writing Teachers. Almost five years ago, after much time spent lurking in the shadows reading the blog posts of others, I dove in and joined the March Slice of Life challenge. I diligently wrote every day that March, sharing my writing with others and reading their posts, too. Much to my surprise, I not only finished that March, but returned the following year…and the one after that…and the one after that. Writing every day for a month, sharing that writing with others, and joining the community again here and there on Tuesdays has taught me that “writer’s eyes” develop quickly, that sharing your writing isn’t so scary after all, and that there is nothing like sharing your own experiences as a writer with your students. Last March I challenged my own fifth grade class to participate and found that even my most reluctant writers shared a post or two.
  2. #MustRead lists. I don’t think I’m alone in having a huge stack of books on my nightstand, a lengthy list of “Want to Read” titles on Goodreads, and a shelf of “someday” titles on my bookshelf. Two years ago, inspired by Carrie Gelson on her blog There’s a Book for That, I joined a community of teacher readers who shared and compared our #MustReadin2017 lists and checked in with one another periodically throughout the year. In 2018, I walked into my classroom on the first school day in January with my #MustReadin2018 in hand, a visual representation of the books I wanted to read that I taped up in the window behind my desk and marked off book-by-book as I read each title during the spring. My students also spent a reading period or two early in January building their own lists, refamiliarizing themselves with the classroom library and exploring online book lists in the process. While I’m still working on my #MustReadin2019 book list, my January stack is already up and running.
  3. One Little Word (OLW). One of the most intentional, eye-opening, and grounding exercises I’ve engaged in and shared with students and colleagues is One Little Word. I began practicing OLW in 2017, choosing the word Embrace to guide me through the year. Last year, my students and I chose our words and decorated our classroom window with them, a constant visual reminder of our intentions. This year I’ve chosen the word Light. For inspiration and more information, visit the Two Writing Teachers’ OLW Round Up.
  4. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR). Inspired by Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers, It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly roundup of the book titles that are currently being read. Last year, I used Padlet in my classroom to capture Monday titles from my students. This year, as a coach, I’ve used a Facebook community group to pose this question weekly to the teachers in my district. Not only is it a great opportunity to share the books you’ve fallen in love with (or not!), but it’s always fun to be inspired by what others are reading, too.
  5. #BookaDay and #Classroombookaday. Years ago, Donalyn Miller challenged herself to read one book a day during the summer, sharing this goal on social media. From there, the movement grew, with teachers from near and far also committing to reading and sharing their summer #Bookaday reads on social media. Three summers ago, I was lucky enough to hear Jillian Heise share her twist on #Bookaday at a Scholastic Reading Summit, where she shared the impact of #ClassroomBookaDay and the ways in which she set aside time every day in her classroom to read aloud a high quality picture book to her students. Incorporating this into my own classroom–and seeing fellow teachers incorporate it into theirs–has transformed the way I think about read alouds and picture books, especially for older readers.
  6. #letswrite2019. This past week, Leigh Ann Eck of A Day in the Life sent out an invitation for teachers to set goals and intentions as writers in 2019. Similar to #MustReadin2019, Leigh Ann has designated checkpoints throughout the year to inspire and support one another. Yesterday I shared my writing goals here and am so excited to grow as a writer in this community and to share with others!

Each of these communities constantly inspires me to read, write, and connect with others around a love of literacy. There is great power in knowing others are developing as readers and writers, too, for both ourselves and our students. Here’s to a great 2019 of building habits, building community, and building stronger readers and writers!

Posted in Literacy, Reflection, Slice of Life, Writing

#letswrite2019: Refocusing on Writing

Image result for writing light quote

True confession: I love to write and I hate to write. Sometimes the words just seem to flow and writing is a natural release of stress, tension, and the need to reflect.

Other times, I’ll do anything to avoid a pen or a keyboard. (Even laundry!)

There is nothing more true than Dorothy Parker’s words: “I hate writing. I love having written.”

Writing is a labor of love, a journey toward personal growth. It’s something I’m drawn to, yet often afraid–or too busy or tired or overwhelmed–to do.

Earlier this week, as I was sitting down to make a list of resolutions and promises for 2019, I ran across Leigh Ann Eck’s call for a commitment to writing in 2019. Knowing that working with a community and setting goals for myself as a reader and writer is always a powerful experience, I absolutely couldn’t let this opportunity slip by.

As I look ahead and seek joy in my writing this year, here is my writing plan for 2019:

  • End each day with journaling and time to reflect/capture moments from the day in my notebook.
  • Participate in the weekly Slice of Life challenge through Two Writing Teachers.
  • Participate in the March Slice of Life daily blogging challenge through Two Writing Teachers (Year #5!).
  • Have fun with writing! Use inspiration from Colby Sharp’s The Creativity Project to try some fun prompts.
  • Inspire someone else to write.
  • Write in front of my kids (ages 4 and 6) and make time and space for them to write beside me.
  • Write a professional blog post at least once each week.
  • Show more courage in sharing my writing with others.

I look forward to meeting and connecting with many other writers this year!




Posted in Literacy, One Little Word, Reflection, Slice of Life

#SOL19: Light (OLW 2019)

As it was for so many, 2018 was a year of ups and downs in my life.

My highs were huge: I earned my doctorate, moved from the classroom to a district literacy coaching position, renewed my National Board certification, spent ten days in Hungary with my family, went to New York for the first time to learn at Teachers’ College, became an aunt, and watched my children grow into incredible 4- and 6-year-olds. It was an amazing year.

The lows were more subtle: the challenges of taking on a new position and the responsibilities I never expected, the day-to-day frustrations of parenting two strong-willed children, leaving the classroom while it was still a job I love, changes in my relationships with colleagues and friends, the ongoing struggle of being married to a man I adore who cannot empty the dishwasher…

As I’ve sat and contemplated a word for 2019, so many have run through my mind. Laugh (a constant reminder to savor every funny moment with my kids). Trust (in myself and others). Enjoy (find the best in every moment).

But as I looked across these words and sought out the deeper meaning of each, none of them fit just right. But they did lead me on the path to the word that I need the most: light.

In one respect, light means to enlighten, to illuminate. Both things I seek to do, both for myself and for others.

On the other hand, lightness signifies to me holding on to less of a burden. Stressing less when my kids struggle to listen. Taking things less personally when faced with criticism. Being more patient with my husband when he does things that frustrate me. Looking for the positive side of every situation, not the darkness. Learning from my mistakes without getting caught in negativity. Focusing on the positive. Remembering to not take every moment so seriously. Reminding myself that light is a choice: it is a perspective, an attitude, and a gift all rolled into one.

And so, as a fresh new year begins, my hope this year is to focus on light, keeping it at the center of my relationships, my love, my learning, and my growth.

Image result for light quote

Posted in Literacy, Reading

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? July 2nd-9th

There’s nothing better than sitting down to a huge stack of books during the summer! Here’s a look at the books I’ve been reading this week.

This week’s Picture Books:

 

My classroom “Must Haves” (for any age):

  • The Rabbit Listened, by Cori Doerrfeld
    This simple, beautiful picture book impresses on even the youngest readers how the best solution is often just being there to listen to someone else. As the main character experiences a range of emotions after a bad experience, everyone offers to help her fix the problem. She rejects them all until Rabbit comes along and silently listens as she processes her grief, anger, and frustration.
  • What If, by Samantha Berger
    A poetic exploration of what it means to be creative. This picture book has gorgeous illustrations that highlight how creativity is inside of you, not just in what you create.

This Week’s Middle Grade Novels:

Classroom “Must Haves” (grades 4-7):

  • Escape from Aleppo, by N.H. Senzai
    This harrowing tale of a young girl’s daring journey through war-torn Aleppo will captivate any middle grade reader. Bringing the current political issues in the Middle East to young readers in a way they can understand, this novel leaves a lasting impression.
  • Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate
    While I’m much more of a fan of realistic fiction, Applegate never disappoints readers. This is the story of a dairne named Byx, a mythical dog-like creature that can speak and has the ability to tell if others are lying. She is also the last of her kind, the rest of her species wiped out by a political scheme that threatens all of her society. Byx and her friends face countless dangers on their journey to find the truth. This novel will appeal to any reader who loves fantasy, adventure, and action.

Up Next:

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Posted in Literacy, Reflection, Slice of Life

Slice of Life 2018 Reflection

Today marks the fourth year I’ve not only participated in the Slice of Life Writing Challenge through the Two Writing Teachers, but also the fourth year I have successfully completed the challenge.

The first three years I participated, I took the final day of the month to celebrate and reflect. After all, we all know the value of measuring our growth and marking accomplishments as educators. I wrote about what I learned, what I hoped, and what I planned to do with my experience.

And every year, I stopped writing shortly after the challenge.

Maybe life got in the way. Maybe I wasn’t into blogging that much after all. Maybe I was missing out on the audience that I had grown to depend on in the Slice of Life community.

Whatever the reason, in spite of my intentions, I stopped writing.

I can’t promise this year will be any different.

And yet.

This year I’m not stopping to celebrate, to acknowledge my month of writing.

I’m not listing all the things I did over the past month that I didn’t think I was capable of doing.

I’m not committing to writing on a certain day or on certain topics.

Instead, I’m closing this month as quietly as it began–as a writer who is always still a work in progress.

Until next time–may that be sooner, rather than later.

slice of life

Posted in Collaboration, Reflection, Slice of Life

Slice of Life 2018, Day 31: My Learning Journey

What are you going to do with a doctorate?

Even when the question isn’t spoken aloud, I can see it written on other people’s faces. Colleagues, parents, even a few friends and family members. Sometimes the question is asked with curiosity; other times with judgment.

Almost three years ago, my babies only 1 and 3 at the time, I started feeling a certain restlessness that only means one thing in my life: the need to immerse myself in learning. At the time, I was out of the classroom serving as a mentor to new teachers and a PD leader in my district and building. I was learning a lot from others, but it was time for me to look outside and beyond my school and district.

When I found out that the university where I earned my Master’s degree and reading certification offered a doctoral path in Teacher Leadership (not administration!), I knew immediately where my path should lead. By January of 2016, I was part of Cohort 4 of the program–and I haven’t looked back since.

In four weeks, I will graduate from this program. Many still wonder just why I decided to pursue a doctorate in the first place. For a raise? A title? A different position? A promotion? To become an administrator?

After all: What will I get from having a doctorate in education?

The answer is so simple it sounds too good to be true: It’s not about what I will get, but about what I’ve already gotten.

Because I chose this path, I have met and worked with and become friends with 12 of the most incredibly passionate and intelligent educators I have ever met. We’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together, and we’ve grown together. Some teach high school, some teach elementary, some are instructional coaches and curriculum leaders. Some have many years of teaching experience, while a few have only been teaching a handful of years. Some of us are quiet; others outgoing. In spite of our differences, we have become a family of educators, united by this journey we’ve taken together.

Because I chose this path, I have an understanding of education that is deeper and richer than I ever could have imagined. I approach teaching differently now than I ever did before, and I know what an intricate system education truly is.

Because I chose this path, I truly know myself. I know my strengths, I know my areas for growth, and I know I have become a better person and teacher for taking on this challenge.

Because I chose this path, I have learned to say Why not? Why not apply to present at NCTE? Why not apply for that grant? Why not try to have an article published? Why not share my knowledge and ideas with others? And why not have a deeper appreciation for their knowledge and ideas, too?

Because I chose this path, I truly know what it means to depend on other people and work together. I couldn’t have accomplished this without my amazing husband and parents and in laws helping out with our kids. I couldn’t have accomplished this without other educators in my district cheering me on. I couldn’t have completed a million group projects without collaborating with others.

Because I chose this path, I am content. Whatever challenges and adventures may come my way in the future, I now know I can grow and learn from each of them, too. And I will have some pretty amazing people cheering me on and lifting me up the whole way.

 

Image result for quote journey destination

slice of life

Posted in Family, Slice of Life

Slice of Life 2018, Day 30: Day Off

When you have a Friday off, you stay up late the night before enjoying a girls’ night out with your Mom. You get dressed up and go see The Color Purple together, then stop on the way home for some late night appetizers in place of dinner.

You turn off all of the alarms and hope your husband can sneak out of the house quietly when he leaves for work.

You let the kids wake you up, most likely by jumping on top of you or crawling under the covers next to you and pressing their bony little feet against your back.

You stay in your pajamas as long as you want. When you finally decide to get dressed, you wear workout clothes and have no intention whatsoever of working out.

You take the kids to a late morning showing of Paddington 2 at the dollar theater, filling up on salty popcorn and sugary drinks in place of lunch. You talk about the movie and how much you all loved it and how much the kids hope for Paddington 3 . . . or 4 . . . or 67 all the way home.

You watch the kids play in the backyard on the trampoline, soaking in the sunshine after days and days and days of gloomy gray clouds and pouring rain. You notice last year’s pathetic-looking garden and decide it’s time to start fresh, so you make yourself do a bit of yard work. Not too much, though–it is, after all, a beautiful day off.

You catch up on laundry. Lots and lots and lots of laundry. How does so much accumulate in just a week? You throw in running the dishwasher and taking out the trash for good measure.

You make some time for reading and writing. Whenever you want.

You only look at the clock when you want to, never because you have to.

You squeeze in a trip to the library to return a stack of finished books and check out the stack waiting on the hold shelf.

Most of all, you relax and savor every moment of downtime before the hectic end of the school year. After all, isn’t that what days off are for?

slice of life