Slice of Life Tuesdays: July 4th and Freedom, and Hope

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For me, July 4th brings complicated feelings this year. I’ve been out of sorts all day. Although it’s a day of celebration, it’s also a day of remembrance, thankfulness, and prayer. Watching current national news makes me feel ill, and yet when I read tweets and posts of my friends and family working hard to resist the gloom-and-doom, I have hope.

I am celebrating my freedom to speak and write.

I ran across several tweets today from Laura Ruby, author of York: The Shadow Cipher, a book I just finished reading (and loved). Her words brought to mind my own mouthiness (is that a word?) — speaking up against the cruel and insane people who think our country is now a better place than it was last year. I have friends and family who are gay, poor, and disabled. My own daughters and I have medical issues that need constant monitoring. I fear for the future, for my family’s future. I have no right to feel this way, while many people still do not enjoy these freedoms. It burns me up when I see and hear inequalities in life. As a white woman with a traditional family, I have no right to enjoy all this freedom while others don’t. But I have the freedom to speak and write. I need to use it more. I will; I promise. I feel blessed to have so many friends and family who support me, who read with me, and who write with me. I am able to say and do what I need to do without much backlash or fear. I feel lucky. 

Laura Ruby wrote about her own medical diagnosis and struggles with a person at a hotel who asked her questions about why she was upset and afraid after the last election. She was able to speak, and later write, about this incident. I am inspired by her spirited tweets. I don’t feel alone in the world — I know people like Laura are out there with me, being mouthy and telling their stories. She mentioned how she felt moved, hearing John Lewis’s acceptance speech for winning the National Book Award (for March: Book Three – part of a wonderful trilogy about his own experiences with civil rights issues), and how his words put so much into perspective for her. John Lewis couldn’t get a library card because of the color of his skin. He dreamed, and fought, and wrote his story to share with us. As I re-read his words today, I feel lucky.

I am celebrating my freedom to read and to learn.

As a teacher, it is my job to use my mouthiness to inspire a new generation of thinkers and learners who will carry on this struggle for independence. It’s not easy — it’s really hard. I appreciate my students’ needs, hopes, and dreams, and I want to hear what they have to say. It’s my job to introduce them to books — reading — that will expand their minds and hearts. It’s my job to teach them to write their stories, so that others can be inspired by them as much as I have been inspired. I am lucky. 

I am celebrating my freedom to teach.

July 4th is Independence Day. I don’t have to worry about looking different (as in un-American), buying what I need (and want), or living with people I love. I have excellent healthcare coverage (for now) and a wonderful job. I don’t fear leaving my neighborhood to do the daily tasks I need to do. It’s not fair. July 4th means freedom for me, and I am celebrating my hope for the future, just as others are still being oppressed. I wonder what I can do. I hope future citizens of America will be as lucky as I am.

Laura Ruby wrote, “Protest. Run for office. Create art.” I love that! Those freedoms exist, although many still have to struggle and fight for those freedoms. I want to help. Today, I’m not sure what good I’ll do. For me, this July 4th brings complicated feelings. Ms. Ruby inspires me, saying, “Make all the noise you can. We are our own best hope.” I am lucky. 

 

 

Slice of Life Tuesdays: Lifelong Learning

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Slice of Life Small LogoLifelong Learning

Wonderful educational events happened here this week. All three girls received As for their summer school classes, two of us are reading and writing (to hopefully publish soon), and I’m leaving tomorrow for the Scholastic Reading Summit! As I continue to work on my teaching and learning goals, I signed up for the School Librarian test this week, too. I just can’t stop talking about authors and books, and to add that credential to my license will be awesome! I love being a lifelong learner, and I’m so happy that my kids are, too!

My teaching goal for the school year is set: help my students become lifelong learners. I am reading texts by other teachers about FUN in school, Genius Hour, project-based learning, and other marvelous ways to make school a better place for learners.  Teachers are spending this summer traveling to conferences and workshops to learn more, to be inspired, to plan for their students’ successes.  Wow! Amazing days are ahead of us, I can feel it!

I will use three strategies to meet my goal of building lifelong learners this year:

1) I will use time in my classes to read aloud, talk about books, and write. My students and I will read and write together, and share our processes to produce great works. We will use our favorite mentors — authors we love — to help us. Reading time will be used for reading; writing time will be used for writing. Talk is important, and sharing with each other will be fun.

2) I will allow choice in the classroom. I always have provided choice; I believe that students are more engaged and more focused when they work on what is personally meaningful to them. I will strive to offer resources from different media formats, as I am allowed. I hope to start students blogging, and I have already asked permission to upgrade our technology in the classroom. Students will choose projects that enhance everyone’s school experience.

3) I will assess my students fairly and help them to meet the school and state standards. I know that standardized testing will not vanish (I wish!), but I will also provide meaningful formative and summative assessments where students can be challenged and grow without fearing “the test” in the spring.

I want school to be fun again. I want my students to experience education that leads to a productive, successful adulthood, beyond my classroom. I want my students to be lifelong learners, like me.

 

 

Slice of Life Tuesdays: Celebrating

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Slice of Life Small LogoCelebrating

The Fourth of July, vacation, time to spend with family, sleeping in, staying up late, and homework? Yes, I am celebrating late tonight — thinking about how much I’ve done this summer, how much I’ve grown professionally and personally.

The fireworks at Newton Park were fabulous. I’m so glad that my daughters went with me, even after the rest of the family stayed behind due to exhaustion from playing sand-court volleyball (which was entertaining to watch). The girls are almost grown now, and they won’t be with me on these “minor” holidays forever. I have to enjoy the time while I can. (Hey, I’m NOT old!)

Fireworks2015Vacation time is so relaxing, yet busy! I’ve spent time with my granddaughter each week and my husband was off work this week, so it’s nice to see him again. I’ve stayed up late, mostly to watch movies and read, but also to eat S’mores by the campfire.

Passion Small BW Photo campfire from AshleyHomework? Yes! I have homework. Since I signed up to use the All Write Institute as a 3-credit “class” (to renew my teaching license next summer), I have spent time reading, studying, reflecting, and writing about teaching and learning. Literacy education is such a fascinating topic for me. It really is! I love reading and writing and I want to share my passion each and every day. I am learning from professional development opportunities, too.

RSBookMany blogging friends and current colleagues have helped me learn to use more technology in my personal life. I switched back to my iPad mini for some e-reading and other productivity tasks, and I started “voxing” on Voxer (a walkie-talkie-like app on my phone), which is fabulous for collaboration with teachers from around the country! I love being able to talk to people and hear their voices and feel their presence while I think, read, and write.

voxer-logo-blackI am celebrating life tonight! Fireworks, vacation, family time, reading, writing, technology — Whew! Now, I must settle down and get some sleep!

 

 

SOLSC Day 9: Knucklehead

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Slice of Life Small LogoThe March Slice of Life Story Challenge is hosted by http://www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.

Being a Knucklehead

My ELA classes are participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge with me this year. We couldn’t commit to the challenge officially, due to ISTEP testing and the lack of technology in our school/homes, but we have been studying what some slices might look like. One of my favorite mentor books to read aloud during this time of year is Knucklehead, by Jon Scieszka. The accounts of the “tall tales and almost true stories of growing up Scieszka” are hilarious, energetic, and entertaining.

The first chapter, “Beginning,” introduces Jon and his 5 brothers, his mom, and his dad. We totally relate — immediately! My students laugh out loud as I read, and then we go off to our writing places to record our own lives.  Not a day goes by that we don’t get some fabulous idea from Jon and his family. If I had to guess, here on Day 9, I would say that many of my students would label themselves “knuckleheads.” Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. But all of them honor this wonderful mentor knucklehead by attempting to write like him. What a way to SLICE!

 

 

SOLSC Day 7: One Week!

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Slice of Life Small LogoThe March Slice of Life Story Challenge is hosted by http://www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.

One Week!

Hey, Slicers! This is Day 7. We have been writing consistently for one week! Great job, everybody!

Well, today, we are all recuperating — and it’s sunny! The snow is melting into large puddles of splashing water; it makes me want to hook up the hose and wash the cars…

and have a garage sale (look at all this junk),

and go swimming (plans for the pool already),

and plan my summer PD traveling events (Boothbay! I’m working on it.).

Come on, spring! Thanks for the glimpse, the preview, the light at the end of the tunnel!

Slice of Life Tuesday: Fictional Narrative

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This is my attempt at a fictional narrative.

President’s Day Politics

She was in awe; she’d never seen anything like this before. The limestone and marble columns looked regal; the broad stone steps to the front door seemed like a mountain.  As she approached the steps on that frozen winter day in February, she felt intimidated. The bodies surrounding her on the street were much more deserving than her. What could she possibly do? Who was she to say anything in this arena? The older, more experienced crowd pushed forward, but not in a hurry. The clumps of people seemed to bond together as one — maybe to keep warm, or maybe to unite as they merged from separate districts. Everyone must work together today, for the common goal.  What would she say? She didn’t have a script written, although she pulled out her cell phone and opened Evernote. “A few well-known phrases to remember,” she thought, giving herself some confidence to face the next step.

A half an hour later, she was pushed through the wide-welcoming marble doors. “Were those open before? It’s so cold!” she whispered aloud. No one answered. Inside, through the checkpoints and down the long hallway. She kept up with the crowd, peering to see where the path would lead. From the center of the lobby–the atrium–(this wasn’t a cheap hotel, so it wasn’t a lobby), she saw a sea of red shirts. The media said there would be hundreds, but this looked more like a thousand! They gathered to change things — to scare the demons that surrounded this house.  The purpose was to expose truths, ignite fires, face fears. She was there — in the middle of it all — and all of a sudden she thought she saw a ghost! She turned to run away, but the crowd kept pushing her forward.

Wait! He caught her eye! Those dark eyes fixed on her green ones, and she could only move slowly forward, as if pulled by some magnificent force. He walked slowly toward her. His face seemed kind enough, his attire rather nice for President’s Day. (He almost looked like the president.) As he placed himself next to her, he deliberately turned from the crowd. He looked intently at her. She pondered, “Why me? Why am I the chosen one in this congregation?”

Maybe because she was young. Maybe because she looked anxious. Maybe because he could get to her first, coax her to join the table that he had prepared. He reached out his hand.

“Welcome to the State House. I’m Governor Pence. What are you doing here on this frigid day?”

Surprised and unprepared for her own response, she replied calmly, “I’m here to stand with Ritz.”

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Memories Come Later

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Tuesday was “Slice of Life” day. Not feeling well. Head pounding. Can’t think. Can’t write.

Wednesday morning, I’m home. Memories come later. This morning’s “on this day” news was the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster from 1986. Memories come and go, but this particular a.m. news sparked a vivid and disruptive time-travel experience for me, where my high school choir teacher came running into the studio room yelling, “Turn on the TV! The Space Shuttle just blew up!”

I remember. It was my senior year — last semester of high school — and we were happily socializing before the bell rang. We were high schoolers, not paying any attention to the world beyond our own until…Boom! We were forced to watch, forced to think, forced to feel for others.  I remember sitting down along the risers with my classmates while another boy ran and pushed the power button on the big black box hanging in the corner. We all sat in silence, watching, thinking, feeling.

I remember. I wasn’t feeling sad for the crew of the Challenger. How awful was I? I wasn’t wondering what happened at “Throttle up.” I figured I didn’t need to know that detail. I was reliving how my family had watched the first Space Shuttle take off in person — watching from the Titusville Pizza Hut with awe and wonder for the newest NASA space program victory. I remembered that the “5-Minute Guarantee Personal Pan Pizza” for lunchtime was new and that poor Pizza Hut staff could not possibly serve all the tourists that day in 5 minutes, and how my dad paid the bill anyway, even though it was supposed to be free.

I remember. As a future teacher-wanna-be, I felt awful for Christa MacAuliffe’s family. The first civilian– teacher– in space. What an opportunity! For an ordinary person to travel into space? It was the chance of a lifetime. This woman was everyone’s hero! Our own science teacher at our own high school had interviewed for that position! What a huge deal! I remember thinking, “Oh, my god! That could have been him!” Our class sat and watched, and thought, and felt for others in a way that not many of us had experienced before that time. I had never witnessed a death of a loved one at that point. I never had an aching heart before that day. I never knew those people or their family members, but that day…my last year of high school in 1986…I remember feeling pain for others.

I remember, but I dream about the future, too. I know that even though the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, bringing the world to a screeching halt, that NASA is not done with space. In 2003, one of my 5th grade students felt as I had in 1986. His grandmother’s backyard housed debris from the Columbia disaster.  I thought, “Oh, you poor kid! I know exactly how you feel!” Watching, thinking, feeling for others, I’m sure he remembers that February day as I do this day. Even though the Space Shuttle program has ended, I imagine that NASA is currently designing future exciting endeavors for teachers and their students in space. I think of the International Space Station, and the future civilians who will travel to the moon, Mars, and beyond. I have hopes and dreams — and I have January 28, 1986 in the back of my mind forever.

 

 

 

 

 

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