Sunday, September 25, 2016

#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 place to gain knowledge and all are welcome. 

I love the library. 

So how could I forget that September is Library Card Sign-Up Month? I was almost ready to turn the calendar to October before realizing that September was nearly done and I haven't talked to my students about the library. September is a hectic back-to-school time, and I nearly missed my chance to make my plea to my students to get their own library card. 

Just under the wire, here's what I'll do:

I am offering my students "The Library Card Challenge." If they send me a picture of themselves with their library card, or come to school with their library card, they will be entered into a raffle. The winning student can select a book from the Scholastic Book Order. 

I also created a Padlet and I hope you might help me! Here is the link: https://padlet.com/ksokolowski1/5vkzc6x8tswg
You can share what having a library card has meant for you in your life. I would love to be able to show this to my students and help them see the power that comes from owning your very own library card. 


Monday, September 19, 2016

#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!) and a movement, #stayhumbleandkind
Perhaps I've come late the the "Humble and Kind" party, but glad I am here now! It's a song worth listening to and I love the way it was written. So here is some inspiration for your Tuesday Slice:

These are the lyrics: 
You know there's a light that glows by the front door
Don't forget the key's under the mat
When childhood stars shine,
Always stay humble and kind
Go to church 'cause your mamma says to
Visit grandpa every chance that you can
It won't be wasted time
Always stay humble and kind
Hold the door, say "please", say "thank you"
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got mountains to climb
But always stay humble and kind
When the dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride
But always stay humble and kind
Don't expect a free ride from no one
Don't hold a grudge or a chip and here's why:
Bitterness keeps you from flyin'
Always stay humble and kind
Know the difference between sleeping with someone
And sleeping with someone you love
"I love you" ain't no pick-up line
So always stay humble and kind
Hold the door, say "please", say "thank you"
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got mountains to climb
But always stay humble and kind
When those dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride
But always stay humble and kind
When it's hot, eat a root beer popsicle
Shut off the AC and roll the windows down
Let that summer sun shine
Always stay humble and kind
Don't take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you're going don't forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind



Sunday, September 18, 2016

#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 able to type in Google Doc and colleagues can immediately comment or edit. This summer, I was working on a proposal for a project I am really excited about. I was able to share it with a few trusted friends and colleagues who could offer feedback and make edits right on the document. I could then decide if I wanted to accept the changes or keep it as is. Digital drafting and revising allows for collaboration in ways that would take several steps longer in other forms. 

Implications for my students? Last year, I had a student who really struggled with penmanship and his handwriting was arduous, then unreadable. He had many ideas but did everything he could to avoid writing. Allowing him to type during writing time helped a lot. While he still did not have stamina for writing, he was able to produce something digitally. I think, in time, he will grow in stamina for writing if allowed to compose and revise digitally. 

Blogging is another way to help students produce digital drafts and then revise them. I am launching blogging in my third grade class this week and I'm so excited to see what students compose and share!

I am grateful for digital drafting, revising, and this community! 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

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 loss of all those lives so much more deeply than I did then. I feel the pain of parents losing their children;I feel the pain of spouses talking on the phone for the last time, knowing death was imminent; I feel the pain of the parents knowing they are not getting out of there alive, leaving their children behind. 

So many stories. So much heartache. 

9/11 reminds me we are all on borrowed time. That tragedy can strike on an unsuspecting, bright-sky Tuesday morning that still felt like summer. That time can feel endless and infinite, but it's not. Not at all. That I must be grateful for the 15 years I've been given that others were not-who knows why? That tomorrow is never promised. 

And so, on 9/11/16, I took my children and my nephew to the playground. I felt the sunshine on my face and watched as the breeze rustled my daughter's golden hair. In her "American flag dress" as she likes to call it, she twirled around the playground, without a care. 

And I counted my blessings and mourned for all those who never got the chance to live these last 15 years. 


Monday, September 5, 2016

#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 kids who did not respond when you called their names- I had to explicitly teach them to look up at me when I said their names. A year where your challenges were so many that you felt like a hamster on a wheel- getting nowhere, yet working so very hard.

But he'd been looking for me for years. I have thought of him through the years as well. Some names and faces fade from my memory, as I've been teaching now for 15 years, yet others remain unforgettable. This boy, I remember. 

I showed him pictures of my children. He sheepishly said he could not pronounce my new name and was it okay to call me Miss Neagle? Of course it was, I said, with a smile.

He has a little sister now, he told me, and she will be in this school. I said how nice it would be to see him when he visits her and I hope he comes by to say hello. He starts his sophomore year in high school in a couple of days. 

***

All of this happened a couple of days after I had my own reunion with a teacher. On a playdate with my son Alex, the great uncle of the little boy we were visiting appeared. My memory fired up- that voice, the familiar figure- it had to be....I asked, "Were you a teacher?" He had been my biology teacher in my freshman year of high school. Over 23 years ago...yet I remembered him almost instantly. 

***

And so, as I am about to start my 15th year in education, I think of these stories as proof that teachers live on in the memory of their students, long after your last day together. We remember our teachers, our students remember us. What a responsibility to be the adult that shapes a class full of learners for one year of their schooling...to know that you will forever be the answer when someone asks, "Who was your third grade teacher?" 

They will remember. I carry this in my heart, knowing what I do today must be full of joy, passion, and purpose. Each day, each student...it all counts. 

Wishing everyone the best school year!