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#SOL18 Who We Are, Who We Are Not

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Summer has brought about more time for reading. So far this summer, I read Liane Moriarty's The Hypnotist's Love Story and Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You The Sun. I'm also reading Sara K Ahmed's Being the Change. All of these books together are making me think about identity and the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and who we are not.

When I was younger, I defined myself by what I was "good at" and "bad at." I also thought in comparisons- if my sister was stronger at math than me, it meant she was good at math and I was bad at it. I've assigned traits to myself and also cut myself off from many things because "I'm not the kind of person who..." fill in the blank (cooks well, entertains well, has a good eye for decorating, is crafty, etc.)

All of the learning I've done around growth mindset has made me question these long-time beliefs. What if I'm not bad at math? Just because someone has a strength, does that …

#CyberPD Week 1: Learning from Being the Change

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One thing I've come to look forward to each summer is #CyberPD! Reading a professional book and discussing it with other educators around the world has pushed me to grow each time. This year, we are reading Sara K. Ahmed's Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension. 


Sara defines social comprehension as "how we make meaning from and mediate our relationship with the world"(xxv). As I studied to be a teacher back in the late 90's/early 00's, no one ever talked about this idea. We learned how to teach each academic subject and then spoke about character education as a separate entity. The reality, now that I've been teaching for over 16 years, is relationships and classroom dynamics play into every single thing we teach students. We can't "just teach math"  or any subject without teaching kids how to respect each other, how to really listen, how to disagree and yet still treat each other in loving ways. Lord knows ou…

#SOL18 Walking Down Memory Lane

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I've been preparing for a Keynote Address, which I am so honored to be giving at Long Beach Literacy Day next week (#LBLit18). The speech is on telling your story as a teacher and being an educator who writes- topics near and dear to my heart. As I've been drafting, I've been going back in time and seeing myself at every age and stage of my teaching life. I've also been rereading my blog posts here and digging up my Long Island Writing Project Summer Institute publications. 

Isn't it amazing that the teacher who arrives at a classroom is really a patchwork of all that she has experienced? The teacher I was at 22 years old is different from the teacher I am now, 17 years later. More squares have been sown into my quilt. More experiences, more texts read, more conversations, more reflections. The patterns are more intricate now and detailed. I didn't know what I didn't know then- there was enthusiasm, passion and purpose but there was so. much. to. learn. 

I wo…

#SOL18 The Confidence Factor

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At a recent parent's meeting I attended for my children's school, I spotted a mom wearing a shirt that said, "Any yoga I do is hot yoga." I had to read it a few times. Huh, I thought to myself. I would never have the confidence to wear something that pronounces myself as "hot". Not in a billion. 

I've been thinking more and more about confidence lately- how some have it in spades while others, ahem- me- often don't. In teaching as well, some educators seem fully assured of their knowledge and abilities. I so often doubt myself. 

The truth is we can always learn and grow and get better, yes. But the truth is I do know many things after being  a teacher for 17 years. Because I'm a teacher who always wants to learn, I read and write and talk a lot about teaching. There are things I know and do well and I need to start owning it.

Why does that feel so hard?


#SOL18 Friendship and Heartache in Preschool

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"Mommy, I don't like school anymore," my five year old tells me this afternoon. She only has 4 days left until preschool graduation.

"How come?" I question.

"Because I lost my best friend. I don't have any friends now." 

After some more questions, it turns out that another classmate has created "a crew" and my daughter is not part of it. Her (former) best friend is on the crew now and she's been left behind. There is one other girl not on the crew and that is the only friend Megan thinks she has now. 

Megan decides to make art projects to give to all the classmates, even the ones that are excluding her. The girl who is also not on the crew deserves an extra special, sparkly art project for sticking by her, Megan has decided. 

I want to jump in and fix this for Megan, but I can't. I want to make those other children be more inclusive, more empathetic, kinder...but I can't. I want to shield her from meanness and hurt feelings but I …

#SOL18 Make the Most of Your Time Here

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"Make the most of your time here." -Amy Krouse Rosenthal
I.

I love to look at the "On This Day" feature in Facebook. What pictures and videos did I post years ago? What was happening exactly a year ago? I see my children when they were babies, sometimes hear their baby voices and giggles. When they were those ages, I somehow thought I would always be a mom to little kids. Now, as Megan gets ready for kindergarten and Alex approaches second grade, I'll be an elementary school mom. I'll blink and they will graduate high school. There is not all the time in the world. 

II. 
It seems every day I wake up to a story that breaks my heart. I've been following 5 year old Avery in the "Bravery for Avery" Facebook group. Avery had brain cancer and passed away on Mother's Day, leaving her twin sister, younger brother, parents, and countless family members and friends. Her mother documented the journey of her illness and death through photos and posts. It w…

#SOL18 Lessons from Flowers

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"this is the recipe of life said my mother as she held me in her arms as i wept think of those flowers you plant in the garden each year they will teach you that people too must wilt fail root rise in order to bloom"
-rupi kaur
On Mother's Day morning, my daughter Megan earnestly said to me, "My heart pumps with love for you." At five years old, I find that sentence to be incredibly poetic as well as amazingly sweet. She followed up with, "I don't only love you on Mother's Day- I love you every day!" My son, Alex, made me a bookmark which he colored with effort and care. His handsome face is on the bookmark, too- a school picture from earlier in the year before life took a turn. 
On the day before Mother's Day, we went to the garden store and picked out beautiful, colorful flowers to plant in a new patch of soil we had the landscapers create near our recently redone walk. I now have lots of hours of planting before me! I've never been much of a …

#SOL18 Welcome Sunshine

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Welcome sunshine.
Welcome fresh air.
Welcome windows opened.
Welcome short-sleeves.
Welcome flip-flops.
Welcome the smell of barbecue.
Welcome late sunsets. 
Welcome green grass.
Welcome flowers.
Welcome ice-cream truck.
Welcome Little League.
Welcome playground.
Welcome a new season. 


Welcome hope.

#SOL18 What Does Morning Work Look Like?

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Teachers, talk to me about your morning work. I have varied what I've done and am still trying to figure out the best way to start our day. Sometimes I have a math exit ticket as a morning assignment. It includes only 2 problems to do and it is based on our lesson from the day before. When students finish it, they are free to read, draw, write, or use a chrome book to create a Buncee presentation, blog, add to their digital reading wall, etc. Some mornings I ask students to write on their blog. Some mornings I ask students to update their digital reading wall. Some mornings we make a birthday card for a classmate. The work is no longer than 30 minutes at the max and students come in on a staggered schedule so 30 minutes would really just be for the student who first walks in the door. 

There is a little boy I know and love who goes to school a few towns over from where I teach and he is a third grader, too. His morning work lasts 40 minutes to an hour. It includes at least four ass…

#SOL18 A Poem for Teaching

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Just when I was missing the routine of blogging, Tuesday rolls by again. The March SOLSC has ended, but Poetry Month has begun. I can't take on another challenge, but I am eagerly following what Amy Ludwig Vanderwater writes each day at The Poem Farm. This month, Amy is writing 30 poems about the constellation Orion, inspired by her book Poems Are Teachers

Her first technique was a list poem. If I were to take on Amy's challenge, I would choose "teaching" as my one subject to write in different ways. Today I'm trying a list poem.

Teaching

Planning
Crafting
Trying
Revising
Deciding
Listening
Affirming
Reminding
Refocusing
Inspiring
Reporting
Debating
Changing
Growing
Laughing
Crying
Sighing
Smiling
Planting
Hoping
Believing
Imagining
Loving
Dreaming
Doing
Learning
Teaching