Showing posts from 2016

#SOL16 Farewell to My OLW

"Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold.  Happiness dwells in the soul."  -Democritus

My 2016 One Little Word was Happy. 2015 ended in a very sad way with the loss of my Grandmother (GG), but she was a happy person who loved to make others happy and the word felt right. As 2016 sputters and gasps to the finish line, taking many beloved icons with it (Florence Henderson! George Michael! Almost Carrie Fisher...), I am getting ready to share my 2017 OLW. 

While "happy" won't be my word of the year, it will still be an overarching goal to keep in my life. As a teacher, happiness is too often overlooked. Our students should feel happy at school- not bored or anxious. I need to look for ways to make their days happier- and mine too. 

Happiness is an important goal for my family and personal life as well. How often do I check in with friends who make me smile and laugh? How often do I take time to send my husband a funny text during the day? Do I look for op…

#SOL16 Love Lives Forever

Unpacking my Christmas ornaments is almost like time traveling. The ornament I got for my son a few days before he was born at the Bellmore Fair takes me back six years ago. The ornament from our cruise to Nova Scotia brings me back to circa 2005. The Happy Engagement ornament (2007). The New Home ornament (2009). The baby girl ornaments and family of four ornaments when Megan was born in 2013. I unwrap these treasures, covered in paper towel and nestled in shoe boxes, and the memories keep me company as I hang them on our tree.
There is one ornament, in particular, that I look forward to holding in my hand each year. The little bear with the bow in between her ears. If you look very, very closely, you can still see the crack on the bottom right paw.
This bear takes me back 26 years, when I was eleven years old. My grandparents bought me this ornament because they knew I loved teddy bears. It was my thing, even at eleven years old, when you might think a person could be getting a little…

#SOL16 4 Years Later

It is Wednesday, not Tuesday, but here I am anyway.

I was supposed to write this post for Slice of Life Tuesday. I almost never miss a Tuesday- have made this commitment, and honestly miss writing when I don't do it. 

I could not find any time Monday to write my Slice, as is my custom. Report card time had me feeling buried at work and trying to dig out, get on top of the to do's. Tuesday morning came with an earlier than usual drive to work as I had to bring my daughter to my mother in laws for the day, since my mother has been not feeling well. By the time I got back home with Megan, it was nearing 5 o'clock. Alex had homework, there was dinner to make and then an exhaustion just hit me. Going up to bed early, I awoke a couple of hours later with my throat on fire, my ears aching, and stayed awake the rest of the night.

Diagnosis: Strep throat. 

So here I am, on a Wednesday afternoon. 

Today is the 4th anniversary of the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook. I see those beautiful…

#SOL16 Grit

Skate, skate, fall. Skate, fall, fall. Skate, skate, skate, fall. 


Last Friday night, we celebrated my nephew's 8th birthday at the local skating rink, The United Skates of America. The roller rink brought back unpleasant memories of the late 1980's, George Michael music blaring as I struggled to stay upright and make it to the middle of the rink, which was blessedly carpeted and a desperately needed refuge from the slippery floor. My school used to have skating nights, and I longed to glide around the rink, effortlessly, maybe even holding hands with a cute boy. Never happened. I could not skate, therefore did not skate, therefore never got better at skating...therefore avoided skating for the last, um, 24 years. 

Until now. My son, Alex, stood on wobbly legs, ready to try to skate. Nowadays, they sell these white walker type things with wheels that you can use to stabilize yourself, somewhat, as you skate. We got one for Alex and off he went. Skate, skate, fall.…

#SOL16 That Overwhelmed Feeling

That overwhelmed feeling.

That overloaded, overstuffed workbag, overwhelmed feeling.

That falling behind, can't keep up, never enough time
overwhelmed feeling.  

That report cards-are-coming, there's still so much to assess
overwhelmed feeling.

That formal lesson observation is days away and the classroom needs an extreme makeover, overwhelmed feeling. 

That holiday time is here, must stuff 100 Christmas cards into envelopes which need address labels and return address stickers, overwhelmed feeling. 

That to-do list is growing like the pile of laundry, currently multiplying like the fishes and the loaves in my basement, overwhelmed feeling.

That grumpy, grouchy, grumbly, need-to-sleep, hopefully-have-more-energy-tomorrow, resigned, overwhelmed feeling.

That 2am eyes pop open, there's so much to do, mind-racing, mind-reeling, overwhelmed feeling. 

Deep breath, focus, try to shake
That overwhelmed feeling.

#SOL16 Megan and Our Books

(A stoat)

My daughter, Megan, is 3 ("and a half," she always reminds me) but already a big lover of books. We have our nightly routine of reading together, but I've been noticing how many of the books are becoming old friends, characters we refer to as if we know them. I guess we do.

There's Harriet Harris, from Mem Fox's Harriet, You'll Drive Me Wild! (Megan can repeat the line, "Harriet Harris, what are we to do? Harriet Harris, I'm talking to you!") Another Mem Fox favorite is Koala Lou. We say together, "Koala Lou, I do love you" just like her mother repeats in the book, and I try not to choke up at the part where Koala Lou's mother hugs her for a very long time. We also enjoy Catalina Madelina (Hoopensteiner Wallendiner Hogan Logan Bogan), illustrated by Tedd Arnold. No David is a favorite, as well as Gerald the giraffe in Giraffe's Can't Dance. Beatrice Bottomwell, The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes, is a character Mega…

#SOL16 Each Kindness

“There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story. ”
― Mary Lou Kownacki
I am a teacher. 
Long before the 2016 Presidential election, I believed in kindness and character. I believed in books to build empathy and perspective, to break down walls that divide "us" and "them." I believed building relationships is the key to a classroom community and the risk-taking that comes when everyone feels accepted and safe. 
There is so much noise everywhere now. 
So much hate and name-calling and painting huge groups of people with labels. Labels create distance and dehumanize the very people you are describing.  If we were to sit with each other, over a cup of tea, could we not find some common ground? If we were to listen to each others stories, might we not empathize, at least a bit? 
Maybe it is Pollyanna to think that way. Maybe many of the adults of this generation are too far gone, too steeped in opinions and hate, too certain of being right to entertain the…

#SOL16 Lesson From Piper

Have you seen the Disney Pixar Short filmPiper

If not, go watch...I'll wait. :)

I watched this movie today with a few of my students who stay after school for "Club Success" (formerly called "tutoring" but this feels way more positive for the kids who are asked to stay). After we watched Piper, we wrote about the movie and then shared our writing. Each of the three students who wrote touched upon the idea that Piper had to learn how to get the food for herself. Some students mentioned the pride she felt after she learned how to survive the big waves and find food.  We talked about the mistakes she made and how they helped her to learn. 

I think this video is a MUST WATCH for a few reasons. 

1- It really makes you think about the process of learning and how uncomfortable it can feel when you move to trying something new for the first time. 
2-Piper learned by her failed attempts and eventually by finding a mentor and trying his strategy.
3-When Piper finally does ge…

#SOL16 The 4000th follower...

It seems the old adage (sort of) is true: A watched Twitter feed will not hit 4,000 followers.

I have 3,997 followers on wait, down to 3,995. Now back to 3,996. 

Normally, I pay very little attention to the number of "followers" I have on Twitter. For a long time, Twitter used to freeze my requests to follow people because I was following way more people than were following me. But, when the numbers get close to hitting a new milestone, I get a surge of satisfaction to see a nice, round number. 500. 1000. And so on. 

The other day, I couldn't believe that I was approaching 4,000 people following me on Twitter. And so I've kept my eye on it, waiting for the magic moment that 4,000 would appear. 

But, to my dismay, the number keeps going down...then up one...then down again. I'm floating in the 3,990-3,998 zone and I can't help but wonder why some people followed me only to unfollow me? While I know it's ridiculous, I feel slightly stung at the rej…

#SOL16 Petrified at Hershey Park

I am late to the party today. I normally write my Slice by late Monday evening, or Tuesday morning at the very latest. I thought this might be the week I have to wave the white flag and skip a Slice. October has been filled with memorable, fabulous moments and events- but I'm feeling behind in everything and am trying to "dig out" as a colleague of mine used to always say when asked how she was doing. 

But, here it is, almost 9pm on Tuesday evening, and I'm feeling the pull to write a Slice. I need to work on the first draft of a personal narrative to use as a mentor for my third graders. I've promised them the story of how I lost Alex at Hershey Park this summer. So, here it is- seems I can't keep away from Slicing after all. 

Tentative Title: Petrified at Hershey Park

"Do you have him?"
My friend Evan was walking quickly towards me, a note of panic in his voice. I felt my stomach drop. 

"No, he's on the Lazy River. Mike was going to get hi…

#WhyIWrite #SOL16 #DigiLitSunday

On the morning my beloved grandfather, Grandy, passed away, I drove home from his house, with words filling my mind and heart. We knew he was "on his journey" as the hospice nurses told us, and so my mother and I slept at my grandparents' house that last night. Grandy was in a deep sleep, in a hospital bed in his room. I remember, at 20 years old, I was wearing a nightgown with dogs on it, sleeping on the couch in the den. I recall my mother waking me up, saying Grandy was gone, she had heard his last breath. I remember when they came to take him away- I couldn't watch, stayed in the den as they carried him out of the house he loved so much, past the garden he tended with so much care. 

When I walked in the door after that drive home, I went straight to the computer and typed. I composed his eulogy as I drove, and as I sat at the computer, my tribute to Grandy took form. I found a poem, Tribute on the Passing of a Very Real Person, which was the closing to my eulogy. …

#SOL16 Grateful for the Seasons

And just like that, a new season is here.

I am grateful for this season. 
Vibrant, Crayola-blue skies, golden Libra sun.
Orange pumpkins perched on porches.
Hoodies with soft fleece lining, zipped up.
Leaves drifting, dancing down to waiting lawns.
Flip flops rested and boots back in rotation.
Retiring sun slipping away earlier each day.
Thick, cozy blankets tugged up during chilly nights.
Costumes purchased and trick or treat bags ready.
Pumpkin spice everywhere, in everything. 

I am grateful for seasons changing,
for leaves turning vibrant colors.
I'm grateful for the beauty and even grateful
for when the trees are bare
because the promise of spring is there too,
knowing that pinks, purples, yellows and whites
will fill our town streets again.

I am grateful for rainy, dreary days 
that give way to the most spectacular autumn days.
I am grateful for seasons changing
and the opportunity to notice life changing too.

I am grateful for this season in my life,
and all the seasons that came before, 
and all t…

#SOL16 Dear Alex

Dear Alex,
We are just a couple of days away from your 6th birthday. I remember so clearly how I felt six years ago- impatient, anxious, so ready for your arrival. Every baby is a miracle, but you felt especially like one. Seeing your little round face for the first time was one of the best moments of my life- it was like I had always known you even though it was the first time I was seeing you. 
You were the most gorgeous baby. Round, chubby, with big eyes and a gummy smile. I loved holding you, rocking you, singing to you, being your mom. We went to Gymboree, music classes, and library classes where you promptly fell asleep in the middle of an exciting rendition of "Dancing Queen" where the other babies were shaking maracas (or chewing on them). 
Leaving you to go back to work was one of the hardest things I ever did. I remember that first rainy morning, when you were 11 months old, and I had to hand you to a woman I never saw before in the daycare drop off room. I had taken …

#SOL16 Ticket to the World? Library Card

Here is what I plan to say to my students tomorrow as I show them a mystery box: "What if I told you that inside this box was a way for you to travel back in time? A way for you to explore all the places you've always wanted to go without leaving your home? What if I told you that inside this box was a way for you to get smarter and wiser and become a kinder person? Would you want to open the box and find out how to make these things happen?"
When they open the box, they will find... a library card....of course.
A library card is your ticket to the world. It is your free access pass to all the great works of literature, to books of all types and genres. A library card allows you to borrow books you might not otherwise be able to afford or have room for in your house. You can read them, return them, take out others. 
Libraries also offer quality programs and classes for children, teens, and adults. There are computers available. There are magazines and newspapers. It is a pl…

#SOL16 Humble and Kind

I've always loved words of advice in the form of poems and songs. Rudyard Kipling's "If" has been a favorite, as well as "Free to Wear Sunscreen" from Baz Luhrmann. Tim McGraw's song "Humble and Kind" is my new favorite!

I love everything about this song. Time spent with grandparents is never wasted- those moments are among my most treasured memories and helped me grow as a person. I love the line, "When the work you put in is realized, let yourself feel the pride, but always stay humble and kind." 

For myself, for my children, and for my students- can there be any greater lesson? Being a good person- a person who is honest, caring, hardworking, a person who doesn't hold grudges and keeps his/her word...a person of integrity- this is what I want to be and help others become. It's why I'm a teacher.

In writing this post, I've discovered "Humble and Kind" is also a picture book (adding that to my list to purchase…

#DigilitSunday Digital Drafting & Revising

My fingers fly over the keyboard. I'm not certain when my fast typing skills kicked in- I used to ace the timed tests in keyboarding class in high school, but I think I really learned how to be speedy during a job in college where I had to retype many articles. My thoughts flow and my fingers keep up. When I'm done writing, I can reread, delete, cut and paste, and quickly change what needs fixing. 

Writing in a notebook is not as natural for me. It's not my go-to place to write. I hate having to cross out words and scribble them above or in the margins. When I was younger, the one area I always disappointed my teachers was penmanship, specifically pencil grip. I could not hold the pencil properly. Occupational therapy wasn't as widely understood when I was a student in the 1980's, but I would have been a perfect candidate. My fine motor skills are just not the best, and it slows me down when it comes to writing. 

I love digital drafting and revising. I love being abl…

9/11/16 #SOL16

15 years is a lot of life to live.
In 15 years, I've had so many experiences and adventures. I got engaged, planned a wedding, got married, had a honeymoon. I had two babies who have grown into children. I've grown in my career and as a person. 
I thought about this as I remembered a student I had in kindergarten years ago, a little boy who lost his mother in 9/11, when he was only two years old. Did she kiss him in his crib that morning, as she rushed out the door to make the train? Did she get the chance to hold him and spend time before walking out of her home, never knowing it would be the last time? She never got the chance to have these 15 years. The two year old she said goodbye to is now a high school senior. I ache thinking of all the time she never got. 
9/11 has hit me harder this year than ever before. In 2001, I was barley out of adolescence myself- a 22 year old, just beginning my teaching career. 15 years older, I have a new perspective on that day. I feel the …

#SOL16 They Remember

Putting the finishing touches on my classroom on Friday afternoon, I looked up to see him filling my doorway. 

"You don't remember me, do you?" he asked.

And in a moment, I did. 

He was much taller, his hair was much thicker and curlier, but in his face, I saw the kindergarten boy he once was.

When I said his name, his smile grew, astonished I remembered. I went to hug him.

"I've been looking for you for years," he said. 

He told me he doesn't get into trouble anymore- he's matured. I think back to when he punched a first grade teacher in the eye as a new kindergarten student. That year, he was in trouble all the time. 

It was the year in teaching that made me doubt myself and my ability to effectively manage a classroom. The room was full of little people with big needs. A child who would run out of the classroom in a manic state; another child who could not get along with peers and would spit and fight over every crayon or spot in line; a class full of k…

#SOL16 Kindergarten!

Dear Kindergarten,

You and I- we go way back. 2003 to be precise, when I became a kindergarten teacher. Man, I didn't know what I was in for! There is no exhausted like  kindergarten teacher exhaustion in the first few weeks of September. I quickly learned singing is survival in kindergarten and we sang throughout the day! Back then, we painted, played, celebrated. We had Teddy Bear Tea Parties and a Q and U Wedding. I thought I would always be a kindergarten teacher.

Was it you who changed or I? Maybe we both did. When I came to you, I was single and still a relatively new teacher. You were pre-Common Core and much more relaxed. As the years went on, you became more rigorous. Less play. Tests. Quadruple the amount of sight words expected to be learned. I got married and had two children. We went our separate ways- I left you for the upstairs third grade classroom and pushed you out of my mind.

Till now. You see, Kindergarten, my son, Alex is about to join you. A different town, a di…

#SOL16 The Hard Questions

"Mommy, will we go to Heaven at the same time?"

Megan is cuddled up next to me, in my bed, as I try to get her to fall asleep while simultaneously keeping up with the #nctechat about writer's workshop. Her own little princess bed in her pink and green room down the hall is alone again (naturally) as she prefers sleeping next to me. It's a hard habit to break and this summer we've gone backwards. As I am tweeting on my phone, Megan, at 3 years old, decides we need to have a philosophical conversation about life, death, and the afterlife. 

"Why did GG die?" she asks.
"Where did GG die?"
"Will I die?"
"Can Simba come back?"

 (Simba was my in-law's dog who recently passed away this summer. Megan would bring him bones each time she visited.)

I don't know the answers. My heart aches when she asks if we will die at the same time. I can't imagine life without her and don't ever want to leave her, either. She says she doesn…

#SOL16 Ditch the Dojo?

Last week, Dr. Mary Howard posted this on Facebook. My initial response, which I wrote as a comment, was this: 

I also dislike public shaming systems but I've used Class Dojo and don't find it to be like that. I don't publicly display the points. I've tied the dojo dollars into a class economy where kids get paychecks and can purchase brain break coupons or the right to sit in the rocking chair at reading time. Paychecks were given privately so students weren't aware of how many points the others received. I did give a certificate to the high dojo scorer of the week and many times it was a student who put forth a lot of effort, despite academic challenges. Class dojo makes it easy to be in touch with the parents and send them pictures and class happenings in real time. They also have a great video series on growth mindset that my students enjoyed and sparked good discussions. There is no public shaming in my classroom and class dojo has been a positive 
way for me to…