As another school year begins (#31!) I’m challenging myself to post on this new blog once a week for the Slice of Life Challenge. I’m experimenting with my voice, style, and what I might have to say. Thanks for visiting and reading. Trying to walk the talk!
January 2, 2018
Slice of Life
OLW is giving me anxiety this year! Oh, to find the perfect word for me! I first became aware of the one word “movement” when our principal purchased multiple copies of the book, One Word That Will Change Your Life, for our staff. Many of us started the school year of 2014 with our word. I read the book. I did the preparation. The word was revealed to me: RELAX. It was the first year of being an empty nester. All 3 of my boys had been “launched” and they were doing really well, and it felt like I had earned a year to relax. I tackled that word for all I was worth all year long. As my sister told me, you’re going to work really hard at relaxing! Having reminders everywhere did help, and I feel good about the improvements it brought me and I still rely on it as a touchpoint for myself. The following year, after only a brief amount of consideration, I selected “present.” I liked the multiple meanings, all of which seemed like they could apply to me. My effort was C- and my success with it was equally mediocre. So last year I took a year off. No word to guide me. Now, with all the end of year chatter, I’m seriously trying to find a word to guide my 2018. I even reread the book last night. I’ve talked with my husband and one of my sons. I’ve prayed about it, and thought about it, and am now writing about it! The interesting thing is, the more I read what others say about their words the more confused I am! There are just so many options! The pressure is intense! We’re talking change your life status, people! So, here’s what I’ve decide to do. Wait it out. Let it marinate. Keep it in the incubator a bit longer. Have faith. Don’t force it. Let the word come to me.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Slice of Life
The Two Sisters write about that student in the class who has such a big impact on the climate and on the rest of the students in the class. This is the one who sometimes draws more attention or the one who teachers can use as their measuring stick to determine what the next moves should be. They refer to this kind of student as the barometer student because they tend to dictate the weather in the room.
In these last few weeks before our vacation I’ve come to recognize the impact of what I’m now thinking of as barometer teachers. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, our school is a buzz of activities. We have concerts and countdowns and coding, oh my! So, actually, the students are super excited, and their overflow of energy can make it hard for them to settle in to the normal routines when they need to. As much as the students love this time of year, teachers often dread it. I have heard so many comments along the lines of these kids are wild, I just want one normal day, and I can’t wait till vacation! It’s like the kids want to skip happily through the snowflakes, and the teachers are holding back the reins trying to hang on to routines and procedures. All it takes is one or two of these type of barometer teachers to put a stink on the fun for all of us.
Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but I just want to say go with it! Remember what it’s like to be a kid and have some fun! It’s okay!
Slice of Life, December 1, 2017
Every December our school principal designs daily activities for our students called Countdown to the Holidays. The idea is that every student in the school can be engaged in the same activity each day and so build both excitement and a feeling of community. Day one was last Friday. The activity was “decorate your classroom door.”
True confessions: I don’t really feel a part of this since it’s classroom teachers doing the activities with their own students during times when I’m not with them. It’s sort of a fun distraction, a point of conversation, but I’m not too engaged in it at all. Until my good friend, the librarian, told me how she had a group of students help to decorate her door. Wait. One. Minute! I can do this too? (insert guilty “us and them” feeling!) Of course I can!
And so evolved this dawning realization that everyone can participate in this! As I shared my epiphany with other related service providers, they too jumped on board. A group of students surprised me with a Wonder themed door decoration, so I moved my door plan to the supply closet across the hall. The conference room has no real permanent tenant so I decorated that one too since it’s the first one you see as you enter the main hall. The cool thing is this: Everyone upped their game this year! I can’t walk past one single door in our building that is not covered with some beautiful creative decorations. Talk about building a feeling of community!
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Slice of Life
Gotta go to the Lit Lab
Another book to read
Why does it
Have to be so hard?
Read with just your eyes
Read like you’re talking
Did you make it match?
Were you right?
Did that make sense?
Um, no, it does not make sense.
Not, I mean out
Who, I mean how
In, I mean on
Ugh! Why does every book
Have to be so hard?
Slice of Life, November 7, 2017
As the Reading and Writing Specialist in our small school, I wear many hats. One of my favorites is reading aloud to classes and digging in to some deeper thinking and comprehension strategies. I also love to join classes during writing workshop. Today is my first day in a third grade class. Their teacher is the most veteran in the building and tends to be quite traditional, focusing on grammar, mechanics, and 5 sentence paragraphs. So I offered to come in a couple times a week to build some more excitement around writing with a Ralph Fletcher style greenbelt writing. I’m hoping to experiment with his Joy Write ideas. I only have 30 minutes, so I’m planning on a very quick 5 minute focus lesson, then we’ll let them free write as I confer, and then we’ll have a 5 minute share at the end. I’m launching the idea of free writing in notebooks by bringing in my collection of journals that I’ve been writing in throughout the years. I have over a dozen! None of them are full! I want the students to see that we write for different purposes and in different styles and for different audiences at different times in our lives. Then of course I’ll give them a notebook of their own. In some ways it feels like I’m making it up as I go, but I can’t help but feel the whispers in my ear from my writing gurus: Graves, Murray, Wood Ray, Fletcher, Lane, Calkins, and others. Like many of us, I’m hoping that, given the gift of time and choice, they will write!
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Slice of Life
“At least we have power.” Was the silver lining comment on this most dreaded day of the year. I wonder if our small school is one of the holdouts as we continue to celebrate Halloween like it’s…something to celebrate at school. Everyone dresses up. Everyone. Kids, staff, parents. There’s a big parade through the building, stopping in each classroom and then that class joins the parade. By the time we get to the fifth grade it’s the whole school and we get to see the most coveted privilege of all. In fifth grade they get to stand on their desks for the “wax museum” effect. Then we traipse out to the playground and create a giant circle of giddiness as the parent paparazzi goes wild. We’re not done yet. Next everyone goes back to their classrooms for the party! Healthy snacks are “encouraged” but make no mistake, there is plenty of sugar happening. By the end of the day, the teachers are exhausted, but the kids are revved up to keep it going for the town wide trick or treating. Streets are closed down! Get candy! Stay up late. Try to wipe that face makeup off before you go to bed. Because tomorrow is the second most dreaded day of the year. The day after Halloween!
Slice of Life, October 24, 2017
Lately I’ve been working on talking less. This would come as a surprise to those who know me well. I’m a proud introvert who believes very strongly that actions speak louder than words. I take pride in my listening skills. I’m a vault; full of many personal confidences. I’m adept at turning the conversations away from myself. I shy away from the spotlight. I rarely offer suggestions or advice unless asked. The evidence would seem to show that maybe I should actually try talking more! While that is probably true in lots of cases, one time I know I need to talk less is in my guided reading groups. I’ve read lots of research and professional texts about promoting agency, nurturing independence, and being aware that the one doing the talking is the one doing the learning. Yet I actually catch myself repeating questions, rephrasing questions, and even answering my own questions sometimes. I confess I do have one group who trained themselves to wait me out knowing I’ll swoop in to help. As we all know, reaching goals is more likely when we develop strategies, so here’s my plan. Stop. Wait. Count if I must. Wait some more. Watch and listen. Notice. Resist repeating and rushing to rescue! I’ll set a random target date of Tuesday before Thanksgiving to give myself some professional progress monitoring! Hold me to it!