Showing posts from March, 2015

I Believe #sol15 Day 31

I began the Slice of Life Challenge a month ago with a poem, "Where I'm From."  This has been a transformative month in so many ways and I wanted to end with things I've come to believe.  I've been reading Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming and I know she has a part near the end where says what she believes.  I remembered the song I sang in elementary school chorus, "I Believe" and listened to it for inspiration before composing my poem.  You can hear the song in the link below.  
Thank you so much for this chance to write, share, read, and connect with a community that I've come to love.  I've appreciated the comments and kindness so very much and look forward to slicing with you on Tuesdays.  Without further ado, I Believe...
I believe in books. I believe in picture books and chapter books Books of facts and books of quotes. I believe in the power of a book to make us laugh, cry, question, wonder…

News in New York #sol15 Day 30

News this morning in New York 
Budget deals emerge
"Governor Cuomo
wreaking vengeance"
Diane Ravitch writes. 
Elected officials
making decisions
not qualified to make.
Tests to decide
the effective teacher
and the ineffective one.
Heart sinks.

What else can I do?
I'm a teacher.
I was born to teach.
It's all I've hoped to be.
If I am found ineffective
due to independent evaluators
who don't know me
don't know my heart
my experience
my work ethic
my continual search
to be better
where will I go?

If test scores
are the focus
and my job is
on the line,
is it a job
I really want 
to do anymore?
When my family
depends on me,
will I need
to play the game?
To get my paycheck?
To pay our mortgage?

How will I face
the young faces
in front of me
who are more 
than any test 
will ever say?

Sadness today 
in New York
Our letters
our phone calls
our pleas
 in the end
didn't matter.
Money wins

I take down 
my charts
their name tags
anything that 
could be helpful
on "the test."
Weeks lost
to make Pea…

Possibilities Everywhere! #sol15 Day 29

A funny thing has happened during this month of slicing.  The more I've written, the more memories have floated up, connecting to current issues in my life. Where before ideas would cross my mind and leave as quickly as they came, now they are sticking and percolating in my  mind, and taking new shape and meaning.  I think this is yet another gift that the Slice of Life Challenge has given me.  

On a walk to the playground with my children today, I remembered a spring day 25 years ago when I took freedom a step too far and rode my bike further than I was allowed to go.  Venturing to a nearby park with two friends, we rode our bikes up and down the hills, exhilarated.  Until my final ride down the hill when I lost control of my bike and crashed, in the days before anyone wore helmets, laying flat on the ground, stunned.  People nearby saw me laying there, un-moving, and called 911. Several fire trucks and ambulances descended on the park  And I was really fine, just comple…

Joy and Inspiration Times Two! #sol15 Day 28

Tonight's challenge: Synthesize the experiences/learning from my Friday night Barry Manilow concert (yes, I am a proud "Fan-i-low") and my Saturday workshop at CELI (Connected Educators of Long Island).  Here goes: 

There is something so joyful about being in a large arena and singing along to a song where everyone knows the words.  The song was created by one person and had specific meaning when created, but then it is released into the world. The song becomes known and each person who sings it calls up different mental images and a slightly new interpretation of the story told in the song.  The song is unique for all of us but shared by all of us as we sing together, strangers who know the same words.  It's nice to sing the song by yourself but there is an energy that comes from singing it together.  

Teaching traditionally has been a pretty solitary endeavor.  It is you, alone, in the classroom with the students.  Yet, for some time now, teachers have been seeking o…

Ready to Take a Chance Again! #sol15 Day 27

Yay for Friday! It's been a rough week and this is the slice I've been struggling to get in to keep my perfect record of slicing each day.  This week involved a class field trip, finishing report cards, my Grandma's 89th birthday and getting things ready for her party, my daughter's doctor's check-up, and... I think I broke my toe playing with son last night. But it's FRIDAY and I am having a night out with my mother and my sister.  We are going to dinner and the BARRY MANILOW concert! We are "Fan-i-lows" and know his songs by heart.  I am looking forward to relaxing, laughing, chatting, singing and maybe dancing on my toes that are unbroken.  

Growing up, my dad was only man in the house and he would call it "sorority hour" when he would come up to his room to find my mom, my sister and me watching a movie together or a show.  My mom introduced us to all the classic movies and musicals were our favorite- "The Sound of Music&q…

Nature's Classroom #sol15 Day 26

Tomorrow my third grade class is taking a field trip to a local Mexican restaurant as a culminating activity to our study of Mexico.  This got me thinking back to my own experience with field trips and one in particular that stands out in my memory, twenty five years later.  
"Nature's Classroom" was the field trip that made you so excited about becoming a sixth grader at St. William the Abbot.  It was a rite of passage. Every year, the sixth grade classes and their teachers went to Nature's Classroom in Connecticut (we are in Long Island, NY) from Monday to Friday.  It was a sleep-away from home trip where you would spend the week engaged in hands-on learning activities involving the natural environment.  You would sleep in bunk beds in girls only or boys only cabins, depending on who you were.  We were split into different groups and had a counselor who was in charge.  Our meals were all in a mess hall and I still remember "the ort report."  Ort was appare…

Accountability and my Grandma #sol15 Day 25

"It takes a village to raise a child." 
Who has made you who you are?  The current political scene is in favor of tying "accountability" of a child's learning to test scores and then to the classroom teacher, who is supposedly solely responsible for how that child fared on the all important exam. In reality, many have a role in shaping a child's life and that child's ability to learn and no test can tell you the whole story about a child, can't tell you about the child's heart or their passion, their character or their talents.  Yet this one measure can lead a child to feel like a failure, make or break teaching careers, can lead to school closings, can somehow deign a teacher worthy of "merit" pay and big bonuses.  Can any one adult really claim to be responsible for one child's success or struggle?

Why isn't the village accountable? What about all the adults, from the very beginning, who have a stake in a child?  Did the mom go…

Is it time for the Bottle Fairy to make an appearance? #sol15 Day 24

Desperate times called for desperate measures, so when Alex was two and a half, we called upon the Binky Fairy to make an appearance.  I used to hate seeing pictures of kids with pacifiers plugging up their mouths until my own child became passionately enamored with Binky, or should I say binkies as there were many pastel colored plugs that Alex would suck on for comfort throughout the day.  I recall him pulling it out to say something and then putting it back in, which really let me know Binky's time was coming to an end. My other mommy friends with kids of similar age were horrified that Alex still used a pacifier, but the time never seemed right to do away with them. When Alex was 20 months old, I became pregnant and it seemed like so much in his life was going to change, I didn't have the heart to take away his beloved Binkies.   When I finally got up the courage to take away the pacifier, I decided to try a strategy that my sister and other moms had used- the Binkie Fairy.…

Revisiting Wendy and Her Candlesticks #sol15 Day 23

On Day 17 of the Slice of Life Challenge, I wrote about a Fundations lesson gone awry as I couldn't stop laughing about the dictated sentences.  They were:  Could James have riding instruction on the saddle? and At the explosion, Wendy dropped the beautiful candlesticks.
     James and Wendy have become rather legendary in my classroom, and students often weave them into conversations and still laugh about James and his saddle and Wendy and her candlesticks.  I challenged the students to write Wendy's story and they came up with some interesting responses.  Many of them made James part of Wendy's story too.  We just learned acrostic poems, so I decided to try an acrostic story for Wendy. I've never written an acrostic story and don't know if it is even a real thing (ha!) but it was fun to try it out. I included characters from the books I read aloud this year, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The One and Only Ivan and a reference to our new read aloud, …

On Slicing and Classroom Implications #sol15 Day 22

I am really so grateful to the Two Writing Teachers- Stacy, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, and Tara, for creating this Slice of Life Challenge, which is surely a great deal of work and management, but is life-changing for so many of us.  I wanted to reflect a bit on what I've noticed about writing in the last 22 days and what it might mean for my students. 

I first wrote this in narrative form, but then I revised it as a table to better show how my personal connections can lead to classroom implications. 

My noticings about the Slice of Life Challenge Classroom Implications for my 3rd graders The freedom to come up with my own topic makes the writing personally meaningful. It still remains true: students need to self-select their topics the majority of the time for the writing to be meaningful.  Students need help seeing the possibilities for topics in their lives. Comments from other readers makes it much more motivating to write and share. I need to give feedback more …

"Decowations" #sol15 Day 21

On the first night of spring, as the snowflakes persistently fell, I pulled out our Easter decorations.  From October to April, there is always something to decorate for and anticipate: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter.  From April to September, there is nothing to hang in the window, no turkeys or leprechauns, hearts or bunnies to remind you a holiday is coming. This is it for decorating for a while, but I happen to love my Easter decorations and it is always like visiting a favorite friend I haven't seen in ages when I open up the box where the bunnies and baskets live the rest of the year.  There's the Lenox Easter basket that, in pale shades of pink,blue and green that I registered for as one of my wedding gifts.  There's the Winnie the Pooh I bought when I was pregnant with Alex, months before he would even appear.  There's the Easter egg electric candlesticks my Grandmother gave me one year, one of her QV…

The Power of a Teacher's Pen #sol15 Day 20

Today has been a reminder about the power of words and the necessity to choose them carefully. On a student's paper, a word from me was written that hurt more than it helped, that caused upset, frustration, and sadness for a parent.  I didn't mean that at all. I've worked to build confidence and show encouragement all year, but one quick move of my pen changed the positive feelings and caused hurt.  
As teachers, we make so many decisions each day, each moment.  We try to honor students, challenge them, comfort them, and also push them to do what we know they could do.  Always their best interest is at heart.  Still, to know that I caused pain by a word on the page is so regrettable to me, so opposite from my intentions.  
Amends will be made.  I will speak to the parent and explain and apologize.  I will never, ever write anything on a student's paper anymore that could be interpreted as deflating or mean.  It was a humbling day, a reminder of the heaviness that every w…

What You Measure, You Treasure #sol15 Day 19

"What you measure, you treasure."
"525,600 minutes.  525,000 moments so dear.  525, 600 minutes.  How do you measure, measure a year?"  -"Seasons of  Love"
183 busy school days.  183 days to teach.  183 precious school days. 183 days- who will you  reach?

With benchmarks, with test scores 
with plots, graphs and data points?
With pretests and post-tests?
With modules in Common Core?

183 busy school days.  183 days to teach.  183 precious school days. 183 days- who will you  reach?

With laughter, with smiles,
With high-fives and apples given?
With passion & effort?
With phone calls and letters written?

183 busy school days.  183 days to teach.  183 precious school days. 183 days- who will you reach?

When APPR first came into existence a few years ago, I kept thinking about "Seasons of Love" from the play Rent.  How DO you measure a year? The song states, "In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter and …

Let the River Run! #sol15 Day 18


"Let the river run. Let all the dreamers wake the nation." -Carly Simon

     One of my all-time favorite movies is from the late 1980's- "Working Girl".  There are just so many things I love about this movie and looking back at it now, with the views of the Twin Towers and the huge computers and of course, the hair, it really does bring to mind a different time.  Yet many of the "truths" spoken in the movie are timeless. 
      I can relate to Tess, who reads everything (including "W" to the chagrin of the snobby executives) because "you never know where the big ideas will come from."  As a teacher (and dare I call myself a "writer"?), I do read many things each day that contribute to my overall knowledge, beliefs, and ideas.  I read professional books, children's books, blogs, articles, poems.  I love when something I read reminds me of something else I read (we used to call t…

James on the Saddle, Wendy and the Candlesticks #sol15 Day 17

I had a moment last week where I laughed so hard I was crying.  It came at a rather inopportune time, as I was dictating sentences for the students to write down during a Fundations (word study)review.  The sentences are written in the teacher's edition and you are supposed to read them and the students write them- a fairly straightforward endeavor.  Except the first sentence I read involved James getting riding instruction on a saddle and the kids were befuddled.        "What type of instruction- writing?"       "Why is he on a saddle?"       "What is a saddle?"     By the time I was done with the James saddle sentence, it was time to read the one about Wendy.  The sentence I was to dictate said: "At the explosion, Wendy dropped the beautiful candlesticks." I could not even read it for laughing so hard.  I suppose it is not very funny that Wendy was at an explosion, but I kept thinking she had bigger worries than dropping her beautiful can…

A Working Mom's "I am" Poem #sol15 Day 16

Disclaimer: I have nothing but respect for moms who "stay at home." It is the hardest job.  In my brief stints being a stay at home mom while on maternity leave and on summer vacations, I know that the days are exhausting and challenging.  This poem attempts to capture how I feel about life at the moment, being a third grade teacher and a mom to 2 kids under the age of 5.

I am a Working Mom

I am exhausted and never done. 
I wonder how to find the elusive "work-life" balance 
I hear my alarm go off at 3am and trudge downstairs to do the work I couldn't do when the kids were awake
I see my work bag,bulging, begging me to finally pay it attention.
I want 5 minutes to myself.
I am exhausted and never done.

I pretend I can do it all
I feel the need to eat lots of chocolate
I touch my children's soft little cheeks and hug them.
I worry I am missing important moments with them.
I cry when I feel like I am drowning from it all.
I am exhausted and never done.

I understand this is…

#sol15 Day 15 Happy Birthday Megan!

It's hard to imagine now a world without Megan.  Big blue eyes, blond pigtails, following me, calling me, snuggling, laughing, amazing me each day.        "You happy Mommy?" she asks me often, patting my face.  When she senses I'm not, usually after she's thrown a bowl of goldfish all over the floor or dumped out her juice, she says, "I'm sorry, was an AGZ-IDENT."     Megan turns 2 years old tomorrow.  It has been 2 years since this loving, sweet, smart, funny, sassy girl came into our lives, completing our family.  She was the most unexpected blessing, the surprise gift I will forever be grateful for.      While Alex was the baby I prayed for, visited doctors for, closely monitored each twinge for signs of life, Megan caught me completely off-guard.  I was working with a nutritionist to lose the baby weight from Alex, getting back into the swing of teaching, and was all consumed by my 20 month old son.  Another baby felt like somethi…