Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Dust Flies...And She Writes a Post.


Link up at www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.  We are so grateful for this community. 

Watch out!  The dust you see flying is from the blog getting a good shake out.  September people.  No blogging since September.  Lots of life, excitement, and stories to share since then.  But no blogging.  While at first I was feeling bad, I figured I was just out collecting stories to share with you.  That's all.  

I'm so happy I saw this link on Twitter this morning: 


Michelle provided the inspiration for my short post.  But it was just what I needed to jump start blogging again.  Thanks Michelle!  

today:  I'll spend most of my day alone.  Writing, reading, planning, cleaning and sorting too.  I'm so excited for all of it!  (Fist bumps all around.)

today:  There is fresh snow in Iowa.  My kids are still on the farm, and so my backyard is a blanket of white.  I love that.  The perfect backdrop for where I'll be spending most of the day.  And I'll slip on some trail shoes and squeeze in a mile later.  
want to be:  right where Jesus would have me be.  What a ride this fall has been.  I've loved every minute of it.  (There's a blog post on that coming later...stay tuned.)
blessings:  My family, friends, teachers...the list could go on.  
thinking:  I have been given a way to use 45 minutes of my day at school differently.  Today I'll be thinking about how to use that time.  What would you do in a first grade classroom with a "new" block of 45 minutes?  The sky is the limit today.  Let's hear your ideas.  
planning:  for the rest of the school year as a teacher, and as a Wife and Mama.  
writing:  more now that Graduate school is over. (It's cool.  I passed, and there is a post brewing on that too.)  That's the plan!  
loving:  time to slow down and rest.  I'll work today, but I love working at a different pace.   
grateful:  for Faith, Family, Friends, and Time to reflect.  

and today {again}: i am thankful for time to slow down.  


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Celebrate 100!

Dear Friends, You can celebrate too!  Link up at www.ruthayres.com.  I thank Ruth for sharing her space with us. 

At the pace of life, I promised myself I would blog today!  (It's still today--celebration #1!Almost-then a handsome 10 year old showed up and wanted to watch "our show" together. Once Upon A Time. I say, "yes" to all of his requests for time together.)

This is such a gentle space, a place to reflect and see the good that is in life, in the classroom, everywhere.  

I was inspired to use Ruth's top ten list as mentor text to connect to the quiet celebrations.  The ones that are worth having.  The ones without fanfare.

1.   A lightened load when my husband returned home from Connecticut to Iowa via Atlanta.  Phew!  This time his absence was really felt, and it was hard.  I'm sure I said 40,000 words on the way home from the airport last night.  

2.  Simplicity.  
The kids in the front row?  Some of my students.  Singing in the choir on an open house night.  This captures them simply as who they are.  And man do I love them.  

3.  To unwind.  It's been a long week.  As I write tonight, I have a small plate of nachos and honey chamomile tea by my side.  (Weird combo?  Yes.  But if you know me, this is a little bit of perfection for me.)

4.  Unhurried.  Funny.  Last night I was reading this article from Relevant Magazine.  I marked it for later to return to and reflect on.  These reminders to slow down keep showing up.  Hmmmmm.  I'm learning that people in ministry don't do that very well, which is interesting to me.  Because it's what everyone is called to do.

5.  My story is NOT hard even at my worst.  I am still given much to celebrate.  My heart is still heavy over the loss of a former student.  He was 13.  Cancer is Mean.  His beautiful Mama writes here.  http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/samlemar/journal/view/id/55f9952ba589b4c75173ebaa
It's worth logging in for the read.  It's heart wrenching and completely honest.  It reminds me, even today, that we were made to be Joyful.  I'll keep aiming for that joy everyday.

6.  Rewriting my story?  I don't know exactly what to celebrate yet.  I am in this new position, and don't feel settled yet.  I'm in the middle of the story.  But I know it's being rewritten and think I'll hang around to see what happens.  :)

7.  I celebrate Hope.  When stories are being rewritten, when purposeful celebration is taking place, when the celebration is a whisper.  There is Hope.  

8.  I celebrate the connections I've made through blogging.  I love hearing your ideas.  You are brilliant, reflective educators who are making a difference!  That is worth celebrating always.

9.  We've been called out of darkness into this marvelous light!  We can celebrate because we are called to! That pulls us to celebrate.  I find myself looking for the joyful pieces in all situations.  Sometimes it is natural.  Sometimes it is purposeful.  

10.  Celebration makes a difference.  You dear friends have made a difference in my life!  I reflect on your words often, and it has changed who I am as an educator and as a person.  Thanks for that.  You matter!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dusting off the Blog...Again...And a Brain Dump with Missing Juju.

Link up at www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.  We are so grateful for this community. 

1.  I miss blogging.  I'm writing a lot for graduate class, but it's just hard to manage both.  I'm so happy for December 9th to come quickly.  (I'll have a Master's Degree then.)  :)  I miss letting the ideas come and then taking time to blog them out.  (Still keeping lists and notebooks.)

2.  Who has changed jobs before?  A wise friend told me a year before I feel like I have my "Juju" in my new place.  That seems very far away.  I need my "juju" back.  :)  I feel like I have no idea what is going on. It's really unnerving.  Everyone is nice and lovely, and I Adore the work and the place I'm at.  Growing pains?  Missing Juju?  Who knows.  I just feel out of sorts.  What is that?

3.  I've been playing the piano a ton.  I play for Chapel tomorrow for the first time.  I haven't played in front of anyone for 15 years.  Whoa.

4.  My class LOVES books.  Loves them.  I adore this.  They are learning what is awesome about Elephant and Piggie this week.

5.  My class is small.  12 kids small.  They make just as much noise as my class of 26 did last year.  I kind of like it, but I'm not sure that kind of noise is welcome where I'm at.  (You know, like where's my juju?  Last year noise wouldn't have even been an issue!)

6.  My family is playing a crazy amount of soccer this fall.  All my kids are scoring goals and that's just really fun to watch.  :)

7.  I had a run last weekend that made me feel like I had my running juju back!  Certainly more minutes to tick off, but we are getting there finally!  I've learned that if I'm going to run with a running app-there is a certain split I need to achieve to feel good about the run.  Misguided?  Probably.  True?  Yes.

8.  I'm messing with math again.  Stay tuned.

Alright friends, let's have a discussion.  What's on your mind?  Is your Juju okay?  :)

Joy!  (And I can't stop saying juju...sorry about that...)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Celebrating Teachers, Students, Awkward Moments, and Faith.

Dear Friends, You can celebrate too!  Link up at www.ruthayres.com.  I thank Ruth for sharing her space with us.  

This blank screen keeps staring at me.  

I know there should be words.  But there aren't really.  

I attended a visitation for a former student Friday evening.  Yes, student.  

My heart is broken in such a weird way, I can't even say more about this experience to do it justice.   Except that Cancer is Mean.   

He was awesome.  When I read picture books to the class, he would laugh at the truly funny parts that first graders don't usually pick up on. From the beginning he was funny.  If you weren't paying attention, you would miss it.  He loved superheroes.  He was a superhero.  I celebrate his life and family.  You can read more about his journey here:  www.eyesteve.com.  The article is entitled, "What A Child With Cancer Taught His Doctor About Superheros."   His beautiful mama writes here:  http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/samlemar

Like I do, when I attend visitations, at that moment I could tell his parents what I thought, my introverted, weird self took over.  His beautiful parents fixed that in an instant. 

And I learned something:  Teachers, you make a difference.  We exchanged memories.  They were so gracious and kind.  The story they shared, I must confess I didn't remember!  But my dear friend who was by my side last night reminded me this is what we celebrate about our jobs.  You can make an impact and not know it.  But you do.  Keep doing that.  Last night I resolved to share more with parents about how beautiful their children are.  We need to keep sharing these stories.  

This week, we've been praying in my classroom a piece of Psalm 35.  It has stayed on my heart.  I don't know why, but God does.  (Because honestly, I'm not feeling the singing and shouting for joy...)  I'm learning to sit and wait when these things happen.  Here's the Beginning Bible Version.  :)

"May my friends sing and shout for joy!  
May they always say, Praise the greatness of the Lord.  
He loves to see his servants do well.
I will tell of your goodness. 
I will praise you everyday. "


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Celebrate: Teacher Reflection.

Dear Friends, Every week Ruth Ayres hosts a link-up to celebrate all that is good!  That link is here.
Join us!

 Yesterday, I had the chance to read a lot of your posts as I was going throughout my day.  Saturday turned into a "bucket list" day for us.  The Farmer's Market for me, and the State Fair for my family.  Along with dessert at a friend's house.  A perfect August day indeed.  

My brain has been on overload since I've started a new school year.  Yesterday, as I was reading lots of your posts, I was pondering the idea of reflection.  

I celebrate teachers who take the time to reflect when possible.  

I celebrate principals and leaders who grab onto the importance of time to reflect.  

Reflection that doesn't take place behind closed doors.  The kind where the doors are wide open and the wandering in and out with questions and ideas takes place.  

Reflection that happens in the early hours of the morning before anyone else is there to see the open door.  

Reflection that happens at night when you just need to plan out "one more thing."  

I have been given ample time to reflect in all settings in the past week.  With my staff, with teachers, with myself.  It's been amazing and has allowed me to feel prepared as I go into this week.

How important and helpful it's been to just have time to reflect on all things before school starts.  A few of mine have been:  room arrangement, time and how to spend it best, literacy practices and sharing those with new teachers.  I'm also in a Faith-based school now, and I'm thinking a lot about how to best share Faith with young students in a joyful, authentic way.  Right now, I'm reflecting a lot on the use of music and how that can play a part in the teaching of this piece.  

Happy August Friends!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SOL: Late Night Slicing. Thoughts on Learning Something New.

Link up at www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.  We are so grateful for this community.

Oh Man, it's the end of day one.

My head is spinning.

I'm new.  I've taught before.  But I'm definitely in a new place.  I understood all the requirements.  I know what I'm supposed to do.  I can tell you.  But am I really ready to do this?  I feel like I'm standing on the edge of a cliff, and I'm not ready to jump.

Tonight,  I've been thinking about our precious learners.

They can tell us what they are supposed to do.  They understand.  Are we helping them feel ready to show us what they know?  No matter what that is:  reading, writing, speaking, "mathing"...

I'm in a heightened place.  I've been asked to do things I do know if I'm ready to do.  Dear Precious Learners, I know what it's like to step out and show what you think you know.  I'm staring at the edge of that cliff right now.  I promise you, I'm writing this slice because I don't want to forget this state of being a little uncomfortable.

I can't wait to meet you Precious Learners.  We'll stand at the edge of this cliff together.  We won't jump until you are ready.  But I promise you, whatever it is that you need to learn, we'll "Jump" together.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Celebrate: A Full Bucket.

Dear Friends, every weekend you can link up at http://www.ruthayreswrites.com/  for a celebration!  Head on over there to check it out!  And join us!

Yesterday, I went to an early childhood conference for the first time in ** years.  :)  

I can't even tell you how at peace I am with being a teacher right now.  The theme of the conference was "WONDERful."  The idea being we stop and see the wonder in what we are being called to do everyday in our work with kids.  

So, I have a few ideas and thoughts I'm celebrating this morning.  

From our keynote speaker, Drew Gerdes, on celebrating the Wonder of Each Child: (@ddgerdes on Twitter.)  

"Hug First; then Teach."

"Don't teach the class; teach the kids."

"Get to know your kids so well, they feel you are teaching just to them."

"Less is more!  Be intentional."  

"Social Emotional Intelligence trumps Academics."  

"Jesus isn't just for Jesus Time; He's for All the Time."   (This quote I'm going to fancy up and display in our classroom somewhere.  As I'm new to a faith-based setting, this was just what I needed at that time. ) 

I hope some of these little pieces of his keynote that jumped out at me can bring you some inspiration as you start the year.  

After attending 3 sessions, here are some take-away ideas that I wanted to celebrate and share with you today.  

Exploring the Wonder of Nature:   Create a culture of play and exploration.  Creativity comes from being outside.  So many ideas from this session, but tomorrow we could start with this:  Go outside, pick a sit spot in the field.  If you have them, bring along magnifying glasses, binoculars, etc.  If not, just go and sit, let the kids watch, listen, dig, bring you things.  Then, have each student share a story of the day.  "What did you see?  Tell us about it!"  It was interesting to note, the naturalist really encouraged story telling here, and not necessarily journaling at this time.  Let the kids just tell their stories. 

Exploring the Wonder of Kids' Health:  Here is a simple game I took away.  It it a version of "Drive the Car," a game I learned from watching a Responsive Classroom.  You will need hoola-hoops.  I was thinking enough for 1/2 my class to play at a time.  When the students wear the hoola-hoops around their waist, they are now in their car ready to drive.  Then the students simply move around the classroom, careful not to bump into each other.  An active way to promote body awareness in our young learners.  

I celebrate a full bucket.  I hope you do too.  


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Thoughts on a Sock Scamper.

This post really will reflect on how our 1st Annual Sock Scamper went.  But first a story.

I don't usually share a lot of stories on places where God is moving myself or my family to Do Something.  But this is a story about how God was messing with me (and my family) in a Big way. (For us.)  And in the spirit of learning, let's share and see what we've learned.  

About one year ago, a friend of mine invited my family to come and run a local 5K to benefit CISS.  Central Iowa Shelter and Services is a shelter for homeless adults with a goal to support self sufficiency.  What's special about CISS to us is they have a 14 bed transitional housing unit that supports Veterans.  

My family rolls downtown on a muggy July day.  We begin to run the 5K along the river.  My then-9 year old begins to see tents under the overpasses, and the questions begin.  I do my best, but I'm sure I messed it all up.  Afterward, he begins to ask, repeatedly if we can do a 5K for homeless veterans as well.  Honestly?  I was brushing him off for almost a year, because who can really organize a 5K and all that?  

But God kept messing with me, and I mentioned this idea on the side to just 2 people.  That is really how things started rolling.  From there, a community of people came together and this conviction from a now 10 year old's vision started becoming a reality.  And on July 25th, we held our First Annual Sock Scamper.  

What Was Noted that We Loved:
The Fellowship and Community.  People lingered.  Members of my church family sat on a trail and encouraged our Scampering folk with joyful words and water at the 1/2 way point.  These people provided joy and safety for our participants.  People stood and sat in the parking lot and just enjoyed each other before and after the race.  

It was great that I was able to walk with my Mother-In-Law at the end of the scamper.  We were able to see who was left on our trail, and met up with some of the team at the turn around point.  A good safety point.  We want to make sure no one is out there struggling without support available to them.  My favorite part here?  My Father-In-Law helped a tired mother who had been pulling kids on a tandem bicycle by taking the bicycle and riding them the rest of the way back to church.  

Gifts were being used.  There was a committee of people who worked to provide a lovely hospitality table for when the scamper was over.  Chocolate milk, Gatorade, granola bars, fresh fruit, lots of water!  Any leftovers were donated to CISS.  It was delightful and plentiful.  (On a side note, we used 100 pounds of ice to keep all our refreshments cool-we'll use some of that next year to keep the granola bars cool for everyone so they don't melt!)  We had a committee of people who organized registration and ordered backpacks for everyone.  

We collected approximately 260 pairs of socks for CISS.  Why socks?  Because when asked what was most needed, new socks and undergarments were at the top of the list.  Just let that sink in for a moment.  They asked for new socks.  It's just something I buy, and sometimes huff at the price because they seem so menial.  It was a whack over the head for me to be sharing and reaching out with what we have.    

What about Next Year?
It was the 10 year old who came up with these visions for next year:  How can we partner with Pastor Guerra and Iglesia Luterana El Pastor del Valle to promote more community?  Can we make signs for the members to take and hang up around the community to promote the Scamper?  Let's make flyers and pass them around the neighborhood.  :)  

Some other ideas that were mentioned to myself and my family:  Could registration and refreshments be on the south side of the building in the shade?  What if breakfast was served for people who just wanted to fellowship, but not scamper?  Could we have it in June, maybe close to Flag Day?  
A return sign coming off the trail would ensure people would turn left and not go straight when it was time to come back to church, and next year we will stake the signs into the ground.  

Who else can we Reach Out with to support CISS and get them basic needs for our community members who need them?  

If you were there, we would love to hear your thoughts below.  Any of them!  

If you weren't there, why not?!?!?!  :)  Just kidding.  We would love to have you join us next year!  If you are interested, let me know and I'll start a list for next year to communicate the details with you.  


Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Two Minute Talk. :)

So I'm chatting with my Super Colleagues, Jillian and Annie.

Now that I'm across town from them, I know I will miss the opportunity to share ideas with them as they pop up.

So, the Two Minute Talk is born.  A one-take video on a variety of topics regarding school.

Here's the first one.  A video on a space in my new classroom involving tinkering, wondering, and creating.

Happy Saturday Friends!

Celebrating Enough Summer.

Dear Friends, Every week  Ruth Ayres provides a space at http://www.ruthayreswrites.com/ to link up and celebrate!  Join in and Celebrate with us.  

Ahem.  Once again, I'm blowing the dust off the blog, and reaching out to celebrate.  As I was typing this part, I was talking to myself like this:  "Ugh.  You didn't blog enough this summer.  You didn't connect enough this summer."  Always a reflection as we head into August and gear up for a school-year schedule.  

Isn't it so easy to feel like we didn't do Enough?  

So I'm celebrating what I accomplished this summer.  It was Enough.  And I'm working on settling back into a routine involving more writing and connecting. 

We survived the great Graduate School Work of 2015.  I still maintain my belief if you accomplish grad school and care for Any people, tiny or otherwise, you get a boost in your GPA.  

I'm setting up a new classroom.  One that hasn't been occupied fully for at least 2 years.  Lots of treasures to sort through and the time needed to make the space my own.  I'm going to try and post a video later for my friends to see if you are interested in this change.  

Running 30 miles a week.  I celebrate the health that is required to do that!  I'm still debating if racing is necessary; or if the miles are enough.  

Family and Friends.  We spent so much time eating lunches, driving to farms, lingering over coffee/tea/beer, it was simply glorious.  

We organized and held a 5K.  It was small, only about 60 participants.  But my 10 year old had this vision, and I adore a Church Community that worked together to make it happen.  We collected over 260 pairs of socks for our 1st Annual Sock Scamper.  Another post will be coming on this soon!

I celebrate that the blogging community is flexible and awesome!  I'm looking forward to reconnecting with you!


Thursday, August 6, 2015

#pb10for10 Books that are Helping Me Start Over. (AKA How Libraries Help...)

Thank you to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for encouraging us and organizing us in this August celebration!  It's one of my favorite things to participate in!

First, a story about a girl who stepped out after 15 years in one place.  This summer I've been working on starting over in a new first grade classroom across town.  With that has come a wide range of emotions from, "Holy Sh*&! What have I done?!?!?"  to "This is going to be awesome; Watch Out World!"  Today I'm more on the Awesome end.  :)  We can chat more about that range of emotions next week.  ;)

My new position has taken me to a new neighborhood in town.  We've spent the summer lingering about, and we've found the most beautiful library.  Funny, it's that library that has been a tool for helping me transition to a new place.  I nearly squealed with delight when I saw the section that had new releases.  I squealed more when I saw books that my Teacher Librarian had read to my first graders over the years.  The library was the first place on this side of town that we felt at home.  Just yesterday my youngest and I were perched on a stool together looking at nonfiction together.  I could have sat there all day. (WE=myself and my 2 sons, who are also transitioning to Mama's new school.)  

Anyway, I've been reminded this summer how libraries are really the heart of a neighborhood.  If your community has one, be sure to support it!  

Here are 10 Picture books we've found at the library that will certainly show up in my new classroom.  Which is really helping me start over and bringing me that sense of Awesome.  

Really, I squealed a bit when I saw this one.  If that was you walking by, I'm sorry I startled you.  :)

Li'l T found this book wildly funny.  It would make a great read aloud!

Such a clever book!  

We are loving this series at home.  The new section of this library has a place for non-fiction too!

This alphabet book is a great way to show first graders how to play with words.  

Beautifully written.  

This wordless book has tremendous art work.  

An enjoyable book for reviewing manners.  

Not a new book, but one of my favorite books to hear as a read aloud.

More non-fiction.  Li'l T has spent a lot of time just lingering in this text.  We've enjoyed learning why animals do what they do!

As the summer has progressed, we are finding more restaurants, parks, trails, shops, etc.  But as we make our trek into our new space each day, we won't forget this library and how it was the first place we felt at home.  


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Slice of Life/Teachers Write: Feeling Strong.

SOLnew teachers write 2015

Friends.  It's been almost two months since I've linked up with Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life!  I've missed you!  Hooray for time to write in the summer!

I've also been participating in Teachers Write this summer as well.  One of yesterdays' exercises is linked here:  http://www.katemessner.com/teachers-write-7-13-15-mini-lesson-monday-with-liz-garton-scanlon/

So I wrote a poem.  I think.  (Read:  I'm learning and stretching myself so much in Teacher's Write!)

The heart could have gone cold.
She realized she was getting old.

She knew she was strong. 
She set out to prove the naysayers wrong.

She ran and worked into the night.
She would then wake up the morning light.

It was hard, it was long.
She knew she was going to prove them wrong.
She remembered to have fun. 
They caught her dancing in the sun.

Then she realized she wasn't cold.  
She had learned life was something to behold.  


Monday, July 13, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (The Summer Edition)

Hi Friends.  

Yes.  I'm going to make a graduate school reference, again.  Sorry.  But now that we are done for the summer, watch out!  There will be plenty of time to share thoughts and blog away!
In the middle of the studying, we did take time to make stops at the library and book stores.  

My purchases so far this summer (from Indies please!):



The Most Magnificent Thing and What Do You Do With An Idea? are books I've used before.  I'm starting at a new school in the fall, and wanted to make sure I had my own copies.  

I've also made time to read a few books for me.  In true fashion, I'm in the library more, so I'm picking up recommendations from all of you!

What I've Read So Far:



And Finally, my TBR pile from the library:



Have a great week!  Happy Reading!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Celebrate! We did it!

On Wednesday night, I turned in my last assignment for a full time load of graduate classes this summer.   I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  My friend and I have been approved to graduate in December.  

WE did it.  

No, I didn't cheat.  :)

But I didn't do this on my own.  

My family was literally by my side this summer as I spent up to 5 or 6 hours a day working.  When you are 6 and 10, that is BORING.  They were amazing, even when I forgot they were.  (Also, I think Mamas and Daddies or any Caregivers should get extra GPA points.  Not to undermine the work for anyone, but to type a Leadership Model for Teaching with this kid jabbering his thoughts in my ear???  Well...it did take some extra effort.)  :)

I have a Super Colleague by my side as we go through this journey together.  The funny text messages, the encouragement.  Oh Yeah, and the getting us to graduate in the Fall!  Super Indeed!

I celebrate my friends who sent great texts like, "You got this" at just the right moment.  It did not go unnoticed.  

My husband, who went right out and got wings and pizza and cracked a beer open for me as soon as it was over on Wednesday.  It was just such an act of love at that time.  There's no one else I would have wanted to be with at that moment.  

1 class left. We did it!


Monday, July 6, 2015

Teachers Write! My Monday Morning Warm Up.

new teachers write 2015

Read all about Teachers Write here.  Then sign up and join us!  

Never mind that graduate work off to the left.  If you've been around, you know I keep referencing it.  Sorry about that.  I'm in my last week for the summer semester.  And there is writing coming on the heels of turning everything in on Friday regarding graduate school.  (Whew!  This Mama is tired!)

Jo Knowles offers a Warm Up today.  Here is mine:

Grandma shows up A Lot when I sit down to write.  
Did she like school?
What about her cousins?  
When did she read?
Did she set reading goals?
Did they all have Faith or did that come later?
This is about the story of my family.  
Did she ever just rearrange her book shelves just because. 
The How to books.  Cookbooks.  Crafting.  Guitar.  Those are here.
The need to know my family.  The inklings I get help me understand.  
I think she would have had a blog if she was middle aged in 2015.  
Once I wrote a comparison and contrast piece on my two grandmas.  
It's funny because I thought my writing would have more education in it.  Best practice.  Classroom arrangements.  Or faith-based reflections after I read and study.  
But it was Grandma who kept surfacing to the top.  Who am I to tell her story?  Will it be her story, or part of mine?
But she's there!  

I can't wait to see where this goes!  


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Celebrate and Blow off the Dust!

Dear Friends, Every week Ruth Ayres provides a space to link up and celebrate at www.ruthayreswrites.com.  Join in and link up too!

Ahem.  Never mind that sound.  It's the sound of a mound of dust being blown off this blog.  New job, Full-time grad student, I'll spare you the details.  It's just good to be back.  I cannot wait to see what you've been up to!  

So what would make me wake up early to celebrate with you after all this time?

My Grandma.  

Do you have someone in your family, immediate or otherwise that you can spend time with and get to know?  Do that.  Ask them every question you can think of about their dreams, their thoughts, their life.  

I'm so thankful that I had the time I did have.  But images like this have me wishing I could have just a little more time.  
Just one small stack from a collection of books from "The Farm House."  I had no idea she had such a book collection.  

Grandma totally would have been in The Nerdy Book Club, yes?  

Imagine the conversations around books we could have had.  And now I know where my book hording collecting comes from.  It's a family trait.  :)  

You guys.  There were boxes like this.  Boxes.  And I can't even begin to tell you how cool it was.  We opened up the covers.  We looked at copyright dates.  We admired the way Grandma (and other family members) wrote their names in the covers.  

But the whole time I kept thinking, I knew that Grandma loved to read, I had no idea it went on for a lifetime.  

What did she think about as she read?  Did she set reading goals on her own?  When did she read?  

I smile and feel connected when I look at this picture.  

My only regret is not spending more time with her talking about books.  That would have been awesome.  

Call Your People today.  Family or otherwise.  If you aren't sure what to do, say "Hi" and then ask them what they are reading.  


Saturday, May 23, 2015


I'm linking with Ruth Ayres, and her weekly link up.  Read More about that here.  And then join in.

It's just time for a list and more photos:

The post field trip picture:

Lots of awesome things happened on this trip, and some not so awesome.  But at the end of the day...there's this.  


Li'l T has decided he wants a pet.  He has made a list, reviewed it with his parents several times, and even insisted on a trip to the pet store to review prices of certain items.  (The checkmarks mean mom and dad might consider it.  The X's mean that's a no.)  He's turning into such a thoughtful kid.  

  My running groove is slowly but surely returning.  Perfect for this time of year!  

  I'm just finding humor in the stress of leaving my classroom after 13 years.  Many of my boxes these days say "Misc."  That will make next fall exciting!!!  :)  

I hope you are finding things to celebrate! 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

SOL 15: Refuge.


Two Writing Teachers host Slice of Life on their blog.  Join us and link up too!

Just like any other Sunday, she sat across from her husband at the coffee and bagel place.  
Exhausted and drained...the data, the packing, the reality of what was coming (moving from her people), she just couldn't handle any more bumps in the road.  

Refuge.  She was looking for refuge.  A place to sit down.  Instead, she was asked to find a new spot to sit.  No big deal really.  Except it wasn't refuge.  It was a reminder that maybe this really wasn't the spot for her.  

Chairs were everywhere, but she couldn't see them.  And she couldn't get out of there fast enough.  In the one spot that she was looking for refuge, she was informed there wasn't enough space.  

Too many bumps.  

(Disclaimer:  Nothing that is coming up is rooted in theology necessarily.  If that's important to you, thanks for stopping by!  Just a girl and her thoughts coming up next...)

Why return to a place of refuge when there are sometimes more tears and bumps than joy and refuge?  
Because Love is Unconditional. 

The Love that people have for me might be Conditional.  Conditional based on what I can do for them.  Conditional on how much space there is.  Let's be honest, and cut to the chase.  That can really suck when you realize that for the first time.  The easy and safe thing would be to leave, shut the door and be done.

But I'm Called to do Something Different.  To Love in the Midst of bumps.  To Love when I know it might not be returned.  Oooh man, when the reality of that hits, it doesn't always feel like cheese balls and cold beer.  More like yesterday's steamed broccoli and warm milk.  But it's the kind of Love that lets you know that there is more to life.  

So I return.  Not to be stepped on, not to turn the conditional into unconditional.  To Love. Please pass that broccoli.  

Joy!  (In the Bumps...)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Celebrate--It's Really Been Almost a Month??!?!?!?

I'm linking with Ruth Ayres, and her weekly link up.  Read More about that here.  And then join in.

Dear Celebrate Friends,

Oh my.  Here I am again.  It's been 3-4 weeks since I've written a post.  So much has happened, just it feels like there is nothing to show for it!  And has so much happened, or am I caught up in "the busy" that is May?  I'm totally caught up in it.  I'm winding down my time at one school, and beginning to think about my new time at another school.  (That story is still coming...)  Anyway, thanks for stopping by.  I can't wait to catch up and celebrate with you!  

So, I was flipping through my pictures.  So there is a list to celebrate.  Starting with I'm thankful that I snap pictures when I see something that gives me joy.  So here we go:

Oh my.  A glimpse into the future or what?!  (He's sweetly chatting with his grandparents.)  He's growing up to be an awesome kid.  I'm so Thankful for him.  

This is a shot of a bird outside my classroom window.  This doesn't happen very often, other than robins.  I'm fascinated by wildlife and creatures.  

Bless it.  He has off to the left a huge basket of books. 60+ titles for sure.  When I asked him to clean it out with me, he parted with 4.  4.  So, naturally we ordered more from the book orders.  I celebrate his love for reading.  He did that on his own terms in this family.  

Do you read Jen Hatmaker's blog?  You should.  This was posted on her social media sites earlier this week.  I just laughed out loud when I saw it.  I needed a laugh like that!  

And here's why I needed that laugh.  I'm in the midst of end of the year paperwork, testing, recording. I need a full week to do this well!  I don't have that, so I'm celebrating what I do complete each time.  

In the end, I didn't say much really.  But I celebrate "the busy" and the little things.  It means I'm living life.  


Monday, May 4, 2015

How’s Math Going? (What We Would Tell You If You Were Having Tea With Us)

Thanks to Mandy Robek at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for hosting Math Monday!

Kendra: In December, I wrote about math choice here:

Annie: As a teacher leader, there is nothing more exciting than seeing an idea come to life in a classroom.  I love reading Kendra’s blog posts about math choice!  It began in the #nErDcampMI car ride home and evolved through conversations with Kendra, her Super Colleague, the instructional coach, and myself.  (Disclaimer here: Our district embraces Jim Knight’s model of instructional coaching.  Confidentiality is an important part of the teacher-teacher leader relationship.  I was invited into the conversation by the school's instructional coach and Kendra, and Kendra has granted me permission to share my perspective.  Otherwise, I’m Fort Knox, people.  Fort Knox without the gold.)

Kendra: Some great things have happened since then!   

Annie came.  That was just awesome, well because she’s Annie!  :)  Seriously, it was awesome to have her math perspective in the classroom.  She watched the format of the choice time.  She talked to kids.  She watched our whole group interactions.   

(Also, Annie’s not kidding about Fort Knox.  In all seriousness, that is a part of her work she takes very seriously.  Not only because she’s a dear friend, but this commitment to confidentiality helped me be brave and invite her in!  I only wish we would have had that gold…) 

Annie:  I may have jumped for joy when Kendra invited me in.  Ask me to talk to firsties about math.  Yes, please.  Ask me to share my observations about how students are working towards grade level standards during choice time.  Yes, please.  I’ll try not to run every red light on the drive over.  

At the front of the room, Kendra turned her whiteboard into a choice board.  Nine options, including counting collections.  Let’s have a moment for counting collections.  There is such power in counting collections in terms of number sense, and it is often something we abandon after preschool and kindergarten.  Check out this video from Teaching Channel. 

Kendra’s learning target is posted, “I can talk about and practice turn-around facts.”  And written above it is this statement: “Mathematicians keep working.”  Boom.  Hello, Standards of Mathematical Practice 1!  
If you’re a teacher leader or a teacher wanting to reflect on their own practice related to the Standards of Mathematical Practice, here’s a terrific list of look-fors from Laura Chambless. I use a similar one in my work with teachers.  

As I visit with the firsties, they are clearly engaged in work around the grade level content standards.  They are representing and solving addition and subtraction problems using the iPad and unifix cubes.  They are thinking about shapes and their attributes with a problem they have posed to themselves using pattern blocks.  They are using number scrolls to extend the counting sequence.  They are developing fluency with their addition and subtraction facts through a game.  It is mathematical play with a purpose.  I’m here to think about standards, but the excitement around math is palpable.  The power of choice strikes again!  

Kendra: Then the good stuff happened.  When Annie and I sat down to reflect, we spent time talking about Math Practice Standards and Strand focus by grade levels. You see, I love the power of choice, but it’s really for nothing if the students don’t understand why it’s so important.  

Annie: When I think about math, I can’t help but draw parallels to what works in reading instruction.  We talk about what real readers do.  So, we need to be sharing with students what real mathematicians do.  That’s the Standards for Mathematical Practice.  I carry a device around in my pocket that could calculate any numbers I wanted.  Our high school students can use the app PhotoMath to scan problem and see a step-by-step guide to solve the problem.  Really.  Ultimately, it is the mindset of a mathematician that makes me different/better than my iPhone.  The Standards for Mathematical Practice lead us towards problem solving and critical thinking.  In case you don’t have them committed to memory...yet...I like this straightforward blog post from Scholastic. Kendra and I talked about how we could infuse the language of the Standards of Mathematical Practice into her classroom.

My spidey-sense told me Kendra was unsure if choice time was focused on “the right things.”  Kendra?  (Kendra is completely shaking her head “yes” here.  I knew there had to be more when it came to standards and “the right things.”  The work had to revolve around math!) We looked at a recommended focus for Grade 1Indeed.  This is “the right” work.  

I didn’t show my friend this video about Operations & Algebraic Thinking at the time.  But I’ll bet you anything she’s about to geek out and watch it.  The ramp up to algebra begins in our early childhood classrooms.  (By the way, Kendra totally geeked out and ran right to the link.  Annie finds such thoughtful, cool links!  And it was confirming in the work that is being considered here!)  

Kendra: With these two tools, I was able to return to the classroom and shift a few things on the choice front in math.  

  1. Choice time always includes a place value activity and fact practice.  Currently my students are loving two games from Everyday Mathematics:  Base-10 Exchange and Beat the Calculator.  
  2. We have added a mathematical practice statement to our learning targets for our work.  This has increased on task behaviors.  Anecdotally, I’ve noted that kids are actually talking about math when they are working!  
    1. I’m hearing things like “Hey!  You need 10 more to get to 100!”  “That’s addition, not subtraction.”  

Math choice is here to stay.  Want to get started?  If you are comfortable with your frameworks and content in math, just jump in and try something.  Anything.  Start with fewer choices if you need to.  Start with more choices if you want to.  But within the framework of your math block, introduce some choice around the standards.  No really, just do it.  Then, run and get your Super Colleagues, Super Coaches, and Super Teacher Leaders.  Talk to them, ask them to watch, listen to their ideas.  Eat a snack together. (Or drink some tea.)  There is power in collaboration.