Showing posts from March, 2016

#SOL16 Day 31 Here's To Us

Back on March 1, I wrote about the bridge we were stepping on as we crossed from March to April in this month of daily writing. Today, on the downhill, we now easily trot the last steps to the other side, the place we've been journeying to all this month, the bridge itself full of discoveries and adventures. 

I found myself saying, "I haven't been reading much because of the blogging challenge this month", thinking about all the novels, chapter books, and picture books still on my TBR list. But, I caught myself after saying this, realizing I've been reading so much: so many moving, funny, surprising, brave slices. The reading and the writing have changed me- perhaps invisible to most, but the stories, poems, and posts I've read and written have changed me for good. (Nod to "Wicked.")

So, Slicers, this is my poem, celebrating us. We did it. A badge of honor that always belongs to us!

Here's To Us

Here's to us.
Here's to the late night typers,

#SOL16 Day 30 To My Pregnant Friend

Dear Friend Having a Baby,
It filled my heart with happiness when you slid the sonogram picture across the diner table, your way of sharing the amazing news with me. I know this baby was a dream that wasn't easy to come by, as my first baby was  also "the dream that I'd been chasing" to quote Martina McBride. When you want a baby of your own, it is a wanting like no other. It is a deep yearning and a worried question mark about what the future will bring. For me, getting the news that I would be a mom came from a doctor's office voicemail on my cell phone, which I listened to, disbelieving, in the closet in my kindergarten classroom. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. 
Being pregnant is a unique season in your life. For me, I eagerly counted the weeks, noted how the baby changed from a poppyseed to a blueberry to an orange to eventually a melon. I read all the books. I kept the pregnancy journal. I eagerly anticipated doctor's appointments and so…

#SOL16 Day 29 Elections

"I think you should run for President of the Student Government," he told me, his warm brown eyes holding mine. 

Sophomore year in college, E. was my crush. I looked for his car whenever I drove onto campus, and when I saw it parked in the familiar spot, my heart would beat faster knowing he was around and I might bump into him. Molloy was totally a commuter college at the time, but E. worked on campus in the fitness center and often parked near it. He was older than me, although I didn't exactly know how much older. He was a social work major and had that kind, caring heart that goes along with that job. My crush was totally unrequited.

But, here he sat across from me, imploring me to run for President of the MSG. I was sophomore class co-president and the current Vice President was slated to run, unopposed, for President, which was usually how elections worked at Molloy. No one ran against anyone else. People floated into positions of power and promptly did.. not much. I…

#SOL16 Day 28 Dinosaurs on Easter

On Easter morning,
Alex sits across the kitchen table
Dark lashes framing 
big blue eyes,
as he explains 
a meteor killed the dinosaurs,
even the babies
who just hatched.

I say, "No one knows for sure"
"Maybe it happened fast"
Don't want to think of eggs
hatching into a world
where they were doomed
from the very start.

It's Easter and we 
don't go to church.
The kids won't sit
they are too little,
but maybe we should,
because Easter is more 
than chocolate rabbits
and toys.Maybe church can help me Explain to Alex The unexplainable.

In a world of meteors
and doomed baby dinosaurs
and bombs exploding 
in every corner of the world
and guns killing first graders
and their teachers,
We need to believe
that there is so much more
than what we see. Easter reminds us The saddest part  Of the story  Is never really The end.

#SOL16 Day 27 #DigiLit Sunday TRUST

Thank you to Margaret Simon for another week of #DigiLit Sunday. Visit Margaret's site to link up your post this week on TRUST. 

When I taught kindergarten, some of my colleagues always told the students what topic to write about. The whole class would be writing about animals today, or the weather. They felt that students would not know how to pick an idea and it was better to have an idea ready for them. 

I never assigned topics. We would brainstorm how to think of your own idea for writing, with charts made mostly of pictures for them to reference if they got stuck. Because I trusted my 5 year old writers had ideas and believed they could pick a topic, they always did. We had struggles in writing workshop, for sure, but one of the struggles was never picking a topic. They could always do it. 

Trust goes hand-in-hand with risk-taking and security. You have to feel secure that if you fall, you will have a soft place to land. When you know that failing won't be the end of you, yo…

#SOL16 Day 26 Weighty Matters

My first memory of shame about my weight was sitting on the white-tissue paper covered table in the pediatrician's office at a well exam. Could I have been 6? The nurse and my mother were having a conversation in the hallway and my older sister took it upon herself to let me know the nurse was telling Mom I weighed too much. I remember the feeling of shame and embarrassment. I think I cried. It wouldn't be the last time tears where shed over my weight. 

I was always chubby, from the start, aside from my very average, slightly small birth weight of 6 pounds. Family legend has it that I ate my pastina with two hands. My second birthday reveals me in a a bathing suit, extra flesh squeezing out the sides, wearing a crown and holding a fork. I was a kid who enjoyed, thoroughly, food and loved eating plain slice of American cheese and dishes of my Grandma's pasta. I was also a sedentary kid, who loved sitting with my toys, reading books, coloring and disliked sports and outdoor p…

#SOL16 Day 25 The Gift of a Grandma

Dear Grandma, 

Happy 90th Birthday, your first in Heaven. If you were still here with us, we would surely be having a special celebration Friday and this weekend. Sometimes I still can't believe you are gone. I still think of you in your cozy house, sitting in your pink rocking chair facing the afternoon sun, listening to the radio. Or sitting on your front porch in  your white rocker, or talking on the phone to Mom or Judy, or cooking sauce in the kitchen. Sometimes I still want to pick up the phone and dial that familiar number that I dialed for years, hear your "Hiya Kath" at the other end of the line. 

It's your birthday, and this year there is no pocketbook to buy for you, or spring nightgown, or nails and toes gift certificate. There are no birthday cards to write out. Yet I still feel like I want to give you a gift. My gift will be to thank you for all the gifts you gave to me in the 36 years and change that we knew each other. 

Thank you for the gift of my mothe…

#SOL16 Day 24 AMPLIFY!

On Tuesday, March 22, I braved the Cross Island Parkway during the morning rush to get to Bayside to hear Kristin Ziemke speak about Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom. It was worth every second in traffic to be inspired by this remarkable, accessible, approachable, energizing teacher, author, and innovator!
I'm a girl who loves resources, and Kristin provided plenty. Here is the link to some amazing resources she shared and invited us to share:  Honestly, it is a treasure trove of materials to explore! 
Kristin opened by sharing two books she recently finished (Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys and My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem). She invited us to talk about what we've been reading with the people at our table. It was so nice to have a workshop grounded in literacy and conversation and that paved the way for our discussions about keeping literacy at the heart of what we do in the classroom.  The technology tools AMPLIFY (ther…

#SOL16 Day 23 Regrets

Anger-filled words
Float away from me Like bubbles But without beauty Further and further away From what I meant to say.
What I really feel in my heart. They rose up and spewed out Never to be forgotten.

Hate always begets hate.
I know this.
Tonight, the words escaped.
Today, regrets. 

#SOL16 Day 22 The Lessons to Keep Teaching

Two responsible and kind students approached me this morning as we were settling into our unpacking routine, starting a snowy Monday in March in third grade. A boy and a girl, these two are rule-followers, respectful, and kind. 

They wanted to tell me about something that happened on Friday, when I was out of the classroom for a math training. Something had troubled them, weighed on their minds, they thought I should know. They were letting me know of an injustice that befell two of their fellow students that day. 

I listened. I heard what they said. And I don't know all the ins and outs, the whats and the whys of the situation. What I do know is these students cared deeply about their classmates and trusted me to hear them and maybe do something to right the wrong. 

We spend so much time talking about empathy. We read books and talk about characters and kindness and courage. I never know how much they understand, really, or how much these conversations will change them. I always hop…

#SOL16 Day 21 Seasons Change

And so, another season comes to an end. As winter exits and spring enters this weekend, my little girl leaves babyhood behind. Specifically pull ups and her crib. 

These changes are long overdue as Megan just turned 3. Still, she is my last baby and this marks the end of the season of my life where I changed diapers and had a baby to place gently in a crib. Alex is nearing 5 1/2, so for over 5 years I have changed diapers and been around cribs. Truth be told, Megan has not spent much time in her crib, preferring to snuggle up next to me at night, in my bed, putting a chubby hand on my cheek, cuddling. It's high time for her to be in her own bed, and this weekend we transformed her crib into a toddler bed. Disney princesses are on her pillow, sheets, and comforter. Her stuffed animals are all in there, just waiting for Megan. 
Sometimes seasons have a hard time letting go. Snow is predicted on the first full day of spring, winter's last gasp. Megan climbed in her new bed, listene…

#SOL16 Day 20 DigiLit Sunday: Discoveries

Thank you to the amazing and inspiring Margaret Simon for the opportunity to post about Digital Literacy on Sundays! This week's topic is DISCOVERY.

Discoveries From My Students 

I've recently been discovering a whole word of things I've never known. My third graders are teaching me. We have a morning meeting each day and students can sign up to share something. This is how I've come to know about Plants vs. Zombies. 

I've never heard of this game before, but boy do my third graders love it. They even have the plushes of the plants who fight zombies. It's like a whole other language, a whole other world I'm not part of. It gives me some more insight into them to know about the things that entertain them.
I've also learned about YouTubers. Some people are famous for what they do solely on YouTube. My students told me about some of the people they follow  on YouTube. They call them YouTubers. This is now something my students are aspiring to be- a YouTuber. I…

#SOL16 Day 19 Is PD a 4 Letter Word?

Professional Development.... PD. Does it fill you with dread at the thought or send a shiver of joy? Something in between?

In March, Two Writing Teachers is focusing on PD in a mini blog series. In a couple of days, I will be posting about PD from the perspective of a classroom teacher. I'm focusing on the rights and responsibilities of teachers who are recipients of PD. 
I would love your ideas. If you post in the comments, please know I may quote you or share the idea in my upcoming post on March 21. You could even make this today's Slice if you are out of ideas! Please send me the link if you do that! 
-What was your best experience with PD and why? -What was your worst PD experience and why? - What are the ingredients or components to an effective PD session? - What are some rights of classroom teachers when it comes to PD? - What are some responsibilities when it comes to PD? -Should all teachers experience the same PD or should it be differentiated based on where teachers are in…

#SOL16 Day 18 Lost

Exhaustion setting in, no ideas for Day 18's Slice, but reading the Classroom SOLSC slices provided inspiration. This post, from Vanissa, a student in the amazing Margaret Simon's class, made me think of my own "lost" story. 

My mom, sister, and Great Aunt Sue had gone to the Sunrise Mall to shop and buy an apple pie for my Great Grandmother, Mama. I was about three years old, as the story goes. My sister and Aunt Sue were heading up the escalator to the bakery to find the pie and my mother was with me, in my stroller. Like most little sisters, I wanted to do exactly what my big sister was doing. My mom said to stay with her, and she turned to look in men's shoe store window, I guess looking for new shoes for my dad.

That's when I climbed out of my stroller (no seat belts? This was the early 1980's and I guess strollers didn't have belts then? OR maybe I was smart enough to unbuckle it? Hmmm....must remember to ask my mother). I figured I would catch up…

#SOL16 Day 17 Sing / Canta

"I'm going to take this home to show it to my mom," L said with genuine excitement in her eyes. She was practically hugging the book. My plan to take this recently purchased book back home to my own children vanished. 

I discovered this book yesterday at the book fair at my children's preschool. It is that classic song, "Sing!" from Sesame Street, now beautifully illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. The lyrics were written by Joe Raposo, when he was asked to create a bilingual song for Sesame Street. The book contains a note from the songwriter's son, talking about his father felt isolated and stigmatized growing up in the United States in the 1940's. The song was an anthem for self-acceptance and courage and has been translated into 35 languages and sung by many different famous singers through the years. I remembered it well from my own childhood and from my Sesame Street watching years with Alex. 

But back to L. When I shared the book with my third grad…

#SOL16 Day 16 To Be Known

"Students want to know they are known." -Barry Lane (via Twitter, 3/5/16)
I was standing outside my daughter Megan's classroom, waiting for her nursery school class to return from their downstairs dance class. It was Megan's third birthday, and I was there to read a story to her class and share a treat. My son, Alex, is in the same preschool, in the upstairs classroom with the "big kids" who are off to kindergarten next year. Later in the day, I would be coming back to the school to read to Alex's class and share a snack, using my day off from work to the fullest.

One of Alex's teachers came down the stairs and stopped to chat with me for a minute. She had the kindest things to say. She told me how Alex always makes her laugh, and says the most clever things, and has such a warm heart. She said she's seen a lot of children in 15 years and there is something very special about him. She spoke so genuinely, with a smile, about my little boy and how mu…

#SOL16 Day 15 The Drop-Off Mom

Today I get to be the drop-off mom, the mom who doesn't rush out the door with work bags and lunch bags a good hour and a half before her kids leave for their little red schoolhouse. Today I get to make them pancakes (ok, microwave the ones my mom made for them) and make sure their teeth are brushed and put them in their carseats and drop them off at school. Today I get to smile at their teachers and see their little friends and explain that the book fair money is in the backpack. 

Most days, I am already teaching a good forty minutes by the time this drop-off routine happens. It's been this way for years. I was sometimes the drop-off mom when my son Alex was in daycare, but many times my husband did the drop-off so I could get to work a little earlier.  Life changed, as it does, and now my mom comes with the sun every morning to our house, to help get Alex and Megan ready for their respective days. It's a gift to not have to get my son to daycare by 7:30am, to let him slee…

#SOL16 Day 13 Meanness Always Surprises Me

Meanness always surprises me, like an ice cold rude wave slapping your face when least expected.

When I was in the 8th grade, I regularly read a comic strip called "For Better or Worse." It followed a family's life and I enjoyed reading each day, sometimes finding connections with the sister Lizzie. The cartoonist decided to write about a familiar character, Lawrence, telling his parents he was gay. He was the kindest character, but his dad responded by throwing him out of the house. (I think he was 14 at the time.) It bothered me so much as did the backlash the cartoonist got for writing about this topic in the comics. I wrote a letter to the editor of Newsday, supporting the comic. It was published, along with my name.
Later that night, the phone rang and I answered.  "Is this Kathleen?" a voice politely inquired. I said it was, and then a string of disgusting profanity started. I stood in shock, then hung up the phone and burst into tears. I told my parents. I w…

#SOL16 Day 14 Pi-ku for Pi Day

Today is 3.14 and Math Nerds, er Fans, are delighting in all things related to Pi! I read about a form of poetry called a pi-ku, created to celebrate Pi Day. The formula is: 
First line- 3 syllables
Second line- 1 syllable
Third line- 4 syllables

I decided to try this out, creating pi-kus for pictures taken at my daughter Megan's 3rd Birthday party.

Is she three? Sigh Baby no more
Little short skirt Diaper in sight
Frozen theme snow Thankfully weather not
Brother made hearts He does love her

Matching coats Three Beautiful girls
Blonde cousins scoot Close in age friends
Glance behind Cheese Always posing
Alex can run Fast Hard to catch him
Little blondes search Treasure inside
PiƱata Pull Candy falls out!
New stuffed fox friend Happy new home

#SOL16 Day 12 The Clarinet

When I was in the third grade, we were finally allowed to choose an instrument to learn to play. My choice: the drums! My mother's choice for me: the clarinet. She didn't think girls played the drums. So I took clarinet lessons. 

It was difficult. Hard to blow air, move my fingers, make the right type of sound. "Hot Cross Buns" came out slow and torturous, yet the only song I could play. Practicing was hard and joyless and my family likened my playing to a dying duck on its last quack.
At music report card time, I was delighted to see I got all As in clarinet playing! My mother was flabbergasted as to how I earned those grades. She actually went up to school to have my grades changed... to be made lower! She couldn't understand how my clarinet playing earned an A. I was quite unhappy to see my grades changed to the mediocre "C"s. Shortly afterwards, I quit the clarinet, and the hearing world rejoiced, as did worried ducks everywhere who were convinced my …