Slice of Life Tuesday: Hard Work

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SliceofLifeSwagMarch2016Roofing is hard work. Remodeling is hard work. Cleaning is hard work. Teaching is hard work. Renewing a license is hard work. Taking classes online is hard work. Reading is hard work. (OK, that’s not true, in my case, but for my students it is.) I cannot wait to drink iced tea and enjoy my “new” home when this school year ends.

 

 

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Slice of Life Tuesdays: Start With the Why

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During the summer, I attended the All Write Institute which advertised the theme, “Start With the Why.” I’ve been thinking about the WHY today as I prepare to start another school year. I’m torn. I want to get back to work, but I would love to read more books, have more time to travel, and get household activities done. So…here are my WHY lists for both.

WHY go back to school?

Ok, let’s be realistic. I need the paycheck again. But “I’m in it for the money” is not what teachers say. First, I want to share all the wonderful lessons and book titles I learned about this summer. I read many books, wrote a little, made new friends, attended functions, and traveled, and I want to tell others about all of it. Second, I miss my friends. (Students sometimes come to school just to see their friends. Teachers do, as well!) Third, it will be nice to be on a productive schedule again. I haphazardly complete tasks when I know there’s not a deadline. I look forward to school; I can socialize with students and colleagues, continue to grow in my practice, and help students to grow and learn, too.

WHY stay home?

I’m still trying to live my One Little Word this year, LEAN. I need to finish cleaning the clutter in my office and in the empty bedroom (formerly home of my daughter–who has moved out on her own). In the spirit of cleaning, we need to finish the home projects, and I cannot wait to get them done. It’s going to be fabulous! Other reasons to stay home? More Reading! More Writing! (Oh, wait. I can do that at school.)

Yes, I am looking forward to going back to school now. WHY? It’s going to be a great year!

 

SOLSC Day 24: Reader, or Writer?

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Slice of Life Small LogoThank you to the ladies at Two Writing Teachers (www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com) for hosting the March Slice of Life Story Challenge!

Reader, or Writer?

Today I feel more like a reader than a writer. I’ve read some fabulous posts on interesting SOLSC blogs. Thank you for sharing your stories with us! All of you are so inspiring and thoughtful with your words. I really want to read today, and not write. I’ll write about my “to do” reading:

Finish: Things a Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone, co-creator of Twitter. (This guy is amazing!)

Read Again: Brown Girl Dreaming (Woodson), Charlotte’s Web (White), Sisters (Telgemeier), The Tiger Rising (DiCamillo), and Divergent (Roth)

Read the First Time: Turn Right at Machu Picchu (Adams), The Crossover (Alexander), Echo (Muñoz Ryan), Fish in a Tree (Hunt), there are so many titles! If I listed the rest of my books on my shelves I want to read, I’d be here until midnight!

I’d rather go back to reading. Please excuse me. Good night!

 

 

SOLSC Day 15: Home Again and Reading

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Slice of Life Small LogoThank you to the ladies at Two Writing Teachers (www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com) for hosting the March Slice of Life Story Challenge!

Home Again and Reading

I have to say, that was a great weekend off! My sister’s birthday celebration was longer than expected, but very nice. (I’m too old to be out past midnight!) Sleeping in…ahh! (I probably don’t need further explanation for that one, right?) I don’t know if I could handle any more fabulous food. (I’m stuffed!) Now it’s time to get back to business.

I finally got home. It was nice to sit on the passenger side of the car today: sun shining, breeze blowing, and me…reading! Thanks for driving, my lovely daughter! I read articles, news from the past week, and some tidbits sent by friends.

Some of the reading hit me a little hard today. This “testing issue” in our country is way out of control. People are talking, and I think that’s a good thing. But I wonder about the actions that will follow as a result. I also worry about how the talk affects our demeanor, our attitude, our job focus. I need to keep in mind that I’m at work to do a job, and do it the best I can for my students and for myself.  I’m not sure how all the politics of education are affecting everyone else (although I’ve read MANY people’s opinions), but I know it’s affecting me in a negative way, and I don’t like it.

I’ll write more about this when I have my wits about me again. For the time being, I have to say that I will keep reading and sharing. Education is the most important topic, as far as I’m concerned. The words are out there. I’m waiting for the right answers.

Slice of Life Tuesday: Books That Changed My Life

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I read a challenge on Facebook last week: “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. It is not about the right book or great work of literature — just ones that have affected you in some way. The list does not need to be in order…”

I could not possibly list ten books that have stayed with me. Maybe 25 or 50, those are more realistic numbers (for my lifetime). Not more than a few minutes to think? I’m a stubborn Taurus perfectionist, and I analyze everything, so I definitely need more than a few minutes, and I will spend time thinking about it before I let others see my list on Facebook (or anywhere else). To meet this challenge, I did think about what would sound good to readers of a teacher’s blog. Then I thought, “Oh, brother…just make the list already!” My list is unusual compared to the others I’ve read in the past week. Maybe some other people think like me, and don’t want to embarrass themselves in a public forum; maybe they read more mature and publicly acceptable books than I do. Anyway…challenge accepted! Here’s my list of books that have stayed with me over the years:

1. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr.

2. Nancy Drew Mysteries (series), by Carolyn Keene

3. How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell

4. Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown

5. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

6. A Town Like Alice, by Nevil Shute

7. Daybreak, by Belva Plain

8. When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do, by Kylene Beers

9. Zoom, by Istvan Banyai

10. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris

I have another whole list of notes, categorized by childhood, teen, and adult reads, and broken down into genres. Like I said, I could not possibly list just ten.

 

First Reaction: I Saw the ISTEP Scores…and the News

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I read the news from our local TV sources about the state’s ISTEP scores, released this week. I thought about what I would say to others who saw the same results. As I teacher, I have a vested interest, but more importantly, as a citizen of this state (which is experiencing an education crisis), I want to know more about what I can do to help my students learn. As I read, my first reaction is that scores are basically flat. Some scores are tenths of a percent higher than last year, and some are tenths of a percent lower (remember: this is my first glance — no analysis yet). Not horrible, not worse than last year, but still not the improvements and growth I want to see.

After reading several comments from the public, (people can log in to the news websites and record opinions, etc. under the published stories) I thought, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” As I perused the snarky, mean-spirited words — writers voicing their frustrations about public schools vs. private schools, bad news, political views, arguing with each other instead of making suggestions —  I felt defensive. Then I stopped myself. “No way. These people are not teachers, administrators, or students at these schools, nor do they know what these standardized test scores really mean.” I wrote this instead:

“Bad-mouthing each other/schools does not help the children. Start the education at home, and then build at school. Do you read to your child every day? Do you help them with their math? Are there clubs/sports/social activities that your child does that enhance getting along with others and learning life-long skills? Teachers, we need to improve as well. Do we attend PD (professional development) with open minds and willingness to change to best practices of instruction? Do we plan and implement lessons and units with authentic learning goals in mind, or are we just teaching to pass the test?…The buck stops with me. Goal-setting…”

My goal is always to be the best teacher I can be. Some years are better than others, and there is always room for improvement. My goal for my students is to become life-long learners and leaders who know how to read and write, speak appropriately, and act intelligently —  ideals that the published standardized test numbers and percents just don’t show.

Slice of Life Tuesday: More on #bookaday (and Giving Books a Chance)

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I’ve challenged myself this summer to do more reading and writing. I returned from my writing conference with many ideas for writing — both for myself and for my students. My #bookaday challenge is fun! I re-read many books, and found five new ones that are on my “to do” list. I’ve plugged along at a pretty good pace, and I’ve been thankful for the time to work on these activities. I love summer reading and writing! I wish I could do this all year. Then, last week, reading screeched to a halt. Stop sign! An obstacle.

Last week’s book was Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead. After reading the first two chapters, I wanted to put it away. I actually did for a few days, reading David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls instead. My daughter, a writer in college, told me to pick up the book again, and read through the 4th and 5th chapters. I told her that I was about ready to abandon the book; I can’t get into it because there’s not much happening. There’s almost too much description. I have actually turned off the “movie in my mind” because I don’t really care what the characters look like, or who is in each room, or what items are on the kitchen table. I want to know what happens! My grown, intellectual child told me that’s what writers do: they set up the characters and the scenes in the first three to four chapters, so you, as a reader, will know how to follow what may be a complicated plot.

“Oh, I see.”

(I knew that, actually.)

It’s been many years since I let a book die on my bedside table. I’m not one to give up on a book — I keep reading, even if it takes me months — and most of the time, I finish the book and give it a great review. I have read so many books that set up characters first, but I guess maybe I just want this book to keep moving…I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I have a goal of 30 books, and this is my eleventh of the summer.) “Don’t give up, Mom. Give it a chance.”

I am both willing and able to give Seating Arrangements another chance. I’m going back to chapter three today. I read the reviews again, and the back cover of the book with all the praise for this “hilarious and deeply moving” story. I want to make sure I give it “the ol’ college try” (love to my daughter for keeping me going).

Have you ever given up on a book? Pick it up again, and re-read. Maybe you’ll enjoy it. Give it a chance.

 

Day 22: SOLSC Slice of Life Story Challenge

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Wish You Were Here!

I wish I could have attended the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Saturday Reunion today. I loved reading about the highlights on all the blog posts — another amazing Saturday in New York City! Diane Ravitch was a keynote speaker! This amazing event drew the usual crowd of teachers from around the country! The weather wasn’t too shabby! Smiles to all of you. Thank you for sharing.

I read that some fellow Slicers got to meet each other for the first time in person! How wonderful! Finally getting the chance to truly become personal friends AND share in the learning — the opportunity of a lifetime. I look forward to the next time I will walk with a thousand other people along Broadway, crossing over at 120th ST to Riverside Church, arriving at least 45 minutes early to get a good seat (now there’s a challenge!), and enjoying a fun-filled day of thinking and sharing time with the experts in the field of education.

As for today’s events at home, I have to admit it was a productive, busy, yet relaxing day. The dryer got fixed — yay! I can do laundry! (Note the sarcastic tone.) We did our taxes — yay! (No, really! We needed that done.) My daughter and I went to the mall and brought home dinner — yay! (No, really! It was nice to get out.)  And for tonight’s main event, I watched “Pretty Woman” on TV — yay! (I enjoy viewing my favorite classic movies again and again.)

Bonus! It’s only Saturday and most of my chores are done now; I can enjoy the entire day tomorrow, too!  “Wish You Were Here” — not just a line from a postcard.

 

 

 

 

Day 13: SOLSC Slice of Life Story Challenge

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Inspiration

In our Language Arts cross-grade level meeting this afternoon, we discussed the week’s standardized testing experience. One comment that stuck with me was this:  students who read a lot seemed to do well on the writing part of the test. I thought, “Yes, that simple idea makes so much sense.” One strategy that we want to keep in mind for next year’s curriculum is to use more mentor texts in the classroom. Immerse the students in different types of model texts, teaching them what we want them to understand using authentic means, and they will have a better opportunity to merge what they learn into their own writing.

I’ve used mentor texts for years. Each workshop or class I attend, I bring back ideas, check book list suggestions, and stock my shelves (at home and at school!) with reading that will model what I want the students to do when they write. My minilessons always spiral throughout the year: “Remember when we learned to use alliteration? Hey, look! Here’s another author who knows that trick!” (I make sure I identify my students as authors — they are!) Using mentor texts is a research-based, best-practice strategy for guiding students to write future best-sellers. Mentor authors help children build confidence. Mentors show children how the experts use the tools, tricks, and knowledge available to them when they write. Mentor writers are life-long readers and researchers themselves, the roles that we want children to take as they work through their writing.

Who hasn’t been inspired at one point or another by a painting, sculpture, musical score, or book? You know you have. You say to yourself, “I can do that.” Mentor texts inspire children to write like the experts. They can do that, too!

Disclaimer: This blogger does NOT using reading texts merely to teach reading or writing standards in the classroom. People should read for many reasons, not the least of which is to ENJOY reading!  Please do not tear apart mentor texts until students do not recognize them for what they truly are — wonderful reading material. My daughter and I once talked about author’s purpose. She said, “Authors don’t sit around and write to teach you about imagery (or making predictions, or identifying character traits, or anything else!). They just write, and you buy the book because you want to read it.

Day 6: SOLSC Slice of Life Story Challenge

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I like to think of myself as a professional person, but there are days that I do not feel professional. I am thinking of that story, “Eleven,” by Sandra Cisneros (about a girl who had a horrible day on her birthday) that I’ve read about a hundred times. “You don’t feel eleven. Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even, sometimes even months before you say Eleven when they ask you. And you don’t feel smart eleven, not until you’re almost twelve. That’s the way it is.”

I’m going to relax tonight and avoid professionalism. My “date night” TV show will start soon, the hit, “Suits.” I’m going to watch the characters continue their stories and talk to my husband about our predictions for this season, what we would do in their situations, and how we should go back to school and become lawyers (HA! Too late!).

Have a great evening, Slicers!

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