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Showing posts from 2018

#SOL18 It Was The Summer

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It was the summer of two wheelers without training wheels (Alex) and a new two wheeler with training wheels (Megan). 

It  was the summer of camp and wet towels and bathing suits every day.

It was the summer of too much money spent on ice cream from the same truck we saw each afternoon at camp. 

It was the summer of front teeth lost. 

It was the summer of pools and cousins and tie dye shirts with beads. 

It was the summer of catching baseballs and kicking soccer balls. 

It was the summer of a new watch, a new phone, a new car. 

It was the summer of movie theaters and a Broadway show.

It was the summer of the Long Island Rail Road into Penn Station.

It was the summer of candy (not me) and packing veggies (me).

It was the summer of reading books for grown-ups and finding new mentors. 

It was the summer of reconnecting with friends.

It was the summer of Uber rides and cocktails. 

It was the summer of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. 

It was the summer of healing. 

Thank you, Summer 2018, for space…

#SOL18 Calendar Filling Up

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My summer calendar was pretty open. A few appointments here and there but mostly stretches of sunny days without many to-do's. We haven't turned the calendar to September yet, but my September calendar is full! Doctor's appointments, sports, activities, back to school nights for my kids, back to school nights for me. I'm feeling a rising panic about how much there is to do and how to fit it all in, like a jigsaw puzzle I can't seem to place properly. 

When I was kid-free, I would spend weeks getting my classroom ready. Now, with two school-age kids, that type of time isn't available. I'm grateful for two amazing Grandmas who are willing to take the kids for pockets of time so I can set up. But even that feels like the crunch- appointments sandwiched in between those hours to make sure my hair is back to school ready, too.  Playdates set up so the kids can have some fun with their school friends before heading back to class next week. The days aren't an e…

#SOL18 Flexible Seating, Flexible Thinking

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I am so lucky! I am one of the classrooms in my district piloting brand new, beautiful furniture that emphasizes flexible seating options. Today I had the opportunity to see my new furniture for the first time in my classroom. Helpful custodians assisted me in rearranging a few items and now everything is in place- furniture-wise. There is still so much to do in regards to organizing, decorating, and getting the classroom ready for my 24 third graders. There is also much to do in the way of thinking through potential problems and possible solutions. 
Name tags taped down on the desk or table always helped students initially find a spot on the first day of school. It also helped me get to know students' names and match their faces to the name. Students are assigned a number and they learned their number because it was on their name tag. How would I learn their names without desk tags? How would they learn their numbers? How would I match names to faces without the name tag? 
Thinking…

#SOL18 Just a Number

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As I padded down the hallway in the early morning light, I visualized the scale reading a certain number. A number that would put me in a decade of numbers I haven't been in quite some time ( 8 years!). I'm so close! I worked so hard yesterday and I just FEEL thinner. I step on the scale, hold my breath and am crushed to see it exactly the same as the day before. Which means an ounce less and I'll be in that new decade. But stuck I am here, in this one I desperately want to leave behind. 

Since May, I've been following a program called 2BMindset through BeachBody. It's a deviation from the usual BeachBody programs which mostly focus on the workout and then an eating plan that accompanies it. 2BMindset was created by Ilana Muhlstein and it focuses on the mindset you need to lose weight as well as the strategies she offers. Ilana herself has lost 100 pounds and is beautiful and inspirational. The program doesn't involve points or containers and is quite common sen…

#PB10for10 Books to Build Community

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I've been reading a lot this summer. Books for "fun" and books for professional learning, which I also find fun! I read Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmed as part of #cyberPD and I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson as part of a teacher book club. You can see the other books I've read by clicking on my Buncee shelf.  Many of the books I read circled back between the themes of identity and then community. Knowing yourself, appreciating who you are and then honoring other people's identities within a community. 

For this year's #PB10for10, I decided to select 10 books that will help me build a strong classroom community. The books I selected tap into students' identities and beliefs about themselves. They also will help begin conversations about respect and what it means to be part of a community of learners. 

Without further ado, here are the ten books I will read to foster identity and community in the beginning of the school year. 

1. All Are Welcome by…

#SOL18 What Do You Love About Teaching?

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Recently on Twitter, author Lauren Tarshis posed a question: "Teachers...what do you love most about your work? What inspires you?" I saved this question to come back to because it is a compelling one. 

I've been a teacher since 2001 but dreamed of being a teacher long before that.  A high-achiever and a hard-worker, I've had some internal conflicts about my decision to stay in the classroom rather than "climb the ladder" and seek a position with more respect, more authority, more clout. More money. More prestige. Shouldn't one keep striving for higher dreams and goals? Have I been complacent by staying in the classroom? 

The thing is, I love being a teacher. There is always more to learn, so you never really feel complacent or like you are stagnating. When I switched from teaching kindergarten to third grade, it was like getting a totally new job! There were so many new lessons to learn and it felt exciting and scary but not at all boring. Kids are just …

#SOL18 My Summer Self

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My summer self does not set the alarm.

My summer self starts the day on my screened in porch, near the blue hydrangeas.

My summer self enjoys leisurely drinking a cup of coffee. 

My summer self has flip flop tan lines.

My summer self meets up with friends and family for lunch and shopping. 

My summer self reads whatever she likes.

My summer self takes my kids to camp in the morning and picks them up too.

My summer self buys my children snow cones from the ice cream truck almost every day.

My summer self can go to the movies in the middle of the day.

My summer self can enjoy the weekends without grading or planning. 

My summer self applies sunscreen often, washes beach towels every day and looks for camp shirts and bathing suits in the morning. 

My summer self is more "Mom" than teacher. 

My summer self embraces this season. 

My summer self will be packed away with the shorts and bathing suits when school arrives.

I'll look forward to rediscovering my summer self when next summer comes…

#SOL18 From "I Can't" to "I Can!"

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The training wheels were off. He hopped on the bike and it wobbled to one side. His foot touched the pavement, pushed off and he tried again, wobbling to the other side. The bike veered one way then the other and I held my breath. 

Just a few weeks ago, he was adamant that he would NEVER ride a bike. Why should he ride a bike, he reasoned, when he plays baseball? He would never need to know how to ride a bike. He could just follow his friends on his scooter. Bike riding would not be part of his life.

I'm not exactly sure how we went from NEVER being a bike reader to trying again, first with training wheels, then without. But tonight, I watched, holding my breath, as a shaky start lead to continuous, exhilirated pedaling. 

He rode his bike faster, even riding over speed bumps and navigating turns. I couldn't do it for him, he had to prove it to himself that he COULD do it. 

I stood off to the side and cheered for him, my heart swelling with happiness and pride. Another milestone mo…

#SOL18 The Things We Think We Cannot Do

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"We must do the things we think we cannot do" -Eleanor Roosevelt 
Swirly slides that splash you into the deep part of the pool. New bikes. Swimming lessons with a different instructor. Bikes without training wheels. Keynote speeches written and given. These are the challenges my children and I have been facing this summer. The scary, uncertain things we think we cannot do that are also exciting and exhilarating and make us grow. 
Last week I talked about the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and who we are not. Those stories often stop us from doing the things we think we cannot do. It is safer for our psyche to say "I don't need to ride a bike. I will play baseball" (my son) then admit that riding a bike could be hard without training wheels. It might be hard for a while. It might take time to get it right. But if we tell ourselves that bike riding is not for us and we are not the kind of person who could ride a bike, that isn't really true, right? I…

#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


#SOL18 Day 31 Goodbye to You

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Goodbye to you, March Challenge. Goodbye early morning wake-ups, adjusting workout routines (or skipping them) to make more time for blogging. Goodbye trying to find the words and delicately balancing what my heart needs to write and what my brain thinks I should publish.
Goodbye to you, fellow bloggers. Your stories touched my heart. Your words made me think. Your passion for teaching inspired me to be better.
I'm sorry I didn't get to read more, comment more, but what I read was glorious. Our country will be saved by teachers like you, I'm sure of it. 
We will meet again, 
on Tuesdays.
And we will meet again,
when next March comes. 
Till then...

"Who can say if I've been changed for the better? Because I knew you, because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
-from "Wicked"


#SOL18 Day 30 Good Friday and Easter Sunday

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How is it almost April?

Time seems to have stopped somewhere in mid-January when our lives changed with a phone call. While I was just starting to come up for air, a second surgery dominated the Winter Break. A month has gone by, and now we are closing out March. 

Spring.

Today is Good Friday. As a Catholic, although a somewhat lapsed one, today is the day where evil seems to win. A dark day, a sad day. A day where a friend betrays you and hope dies. The beauty of Easter Sunday is that hope never dies, that evil never wins, that good triumphs and redemption is possible. 

I need Easter more than ever this year.

I am tired of the greedy and selfish dominating the headlines. I am tried of school shooters. I am tired of Russia and collusion and doctor's appointments and guilt and sadness and fear and worry and wishing with everything in my heart that I could redo a certain day in January. 

I have been trying to be strong and most days I am. I know many have more challenges than me, more pai…

#SOL18 Day 29 My Mom

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I always advise my student writers, "Show- don't tell." So I could tell you about my mother, but maybe this example will show you what you need to know.

On a particular day last year, I drove to my parent's house to pick up my children after work. My mom comes to my house every morning by 7:15 to help get the kids ready for school. Later, she picks up Megan at preschool and an hour later picks up Alex from his school. She watches them until I get home from work, which some days is later than I should.

 I walked in to find Megan wearing a tissue paper hula skirt, twirling around. But what's more, all of the many dolls she brought, including her stuffed animal dog Star, were sporting the same mini-versions of the pink tissue paper hula skirts. My mom was wearing her reading glasses, deep in the work of creating another hula skirt for another doll. It was a scene I will never forget.

What can you infer about my mom from this example? Would you conclude she is patient, …

#SOL18 Day 28 Shiny Time Cleaning Club

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Last night's Facebook wishes reminded me of a Slice I could write! It was my friend Linda's birthday and on her wall I posted:"Happy Birthday to the Co-President of the Shiny Time Cleaning Club". 

In elementary school, Linda and I were best friends. We would often have play dates at each other's houses, where we would play Uno and "bet" with Skittles, play school, plan holiday concerts (another post for sure!) and work on our business- The Shiny Time Cleaning Club. 

We had a real receipt pad for this business and we served as Co-Presidents. The Shiny Time Cleaning Club would do chores for money. Laundry folding was fifty cents. Unloading the dishwasher was 25 cents. Everything was quite reasonable and we felt very grown-up and business-like doing these chores. 

What I wouldn't given now to pay someone to do my laundry, dishes and more each day! Maybe it's time to tell my children about the Shiny Time Cleaning Club and see if they want to be the new…

#SOL18 Day 27

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I've made it to March 27th before needing to write the "I am stuck" post. The "I am blank this morning but I showed up and got it done" post. I've sat here, writing and deleting, looking around the room for inspiration, looking into my heart for what to say. Some words are not meant for publishing right now. What else feels worthy to write about? 

The clock ticks and takes me closer to the time I need to shower and begin the day. A work bag filled was barely opened. Fluency cards I thought I'd hole punch and put on rings remain exactly where they were when I dropped them on the floor yesterday afternoon. So. Much. To. Do. Never. Enough. Time. 

Breathe. 
Type.

I'll be looking for inspiration today so tomorrow I'll have a story to tell. Have you easily found topics for posts or found yourself stuck too?