Slice of Life 21: Saturday

March 21, 2009

Snuggling in for a few more minutes of sleep

Chauffeur Wes to baseball practice

Squeeze in exercise on the tread mill

Cheerleader from the sidelines at Tim’s basketball game

Create Chef’s pleasure of macaroni and cheese

Switch laundry loads – hanging up clothes so not to wrinkle

Rake piles of left-over fall leaves

Bag and pile, rake, bag and pile some more

Grocery shop for fresh veggies and preparations for tomorrow’s dinner

Unload items into the refrig and freezer

Race to the library for new books and some videos

Return to crash on the couch for a few moments of snooze

Time to rake some more

Beautiful day, “May I ride my bike, Mom?”

Off they go

Full day

Thankful for all I have.

Slice of Life 19: Sharing my Work

March 19, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge Hosted by Two Writing Teachers

Today, I worked in a class that I have not visited in a while.  The teacher had mentioned that the students seemed to be stuck on not having ideas to write about.  By now I would assume that the students would have some topics to write about, but after my writer’s block I had recently, I believe them.

I showed the kids my blog and read the Writer’s Block blog.  I think the boys in the class were surprised.  I mean, I’m the literacy coach that should know how to do that.  I’m the adult.  But, I realized that the little voice in my head was evaluating too much and not allowing any chance for some writing at the time.

So we sat together with our notebooks and began some directed idea work.  I had them draw a heart as Georgia Heard has shared and write topics that mean a lot to them.  After a few minutes and some restlessness, I decided to give them some broad topics – like people, activities, etc.  When I said “pets” a ripple effect started with little comments.  I jumped at the opportunity and had the kids turn and share.  They did.  I noticed each was saying something or was engaged in listening.

I don’t know if the kids would have been able to come up with ideas without sharing my writing.  What I do know is the look of surprise the kids had when I said that even I had trouble with ideas.  I became an equal with them as a writer.  I’m anxious to see what will happen tomorrow.  I’m expecting some peaks into their writerly lives.

Slice of Life 17: Disappointment

March 17, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge Hosted by Two Writing Teachers

I’m listening to my husband trying to cheer our oldest son.  Wes loves baseball!  I can remember as a little 3 year old saying, “Play ball, Mommy.  Play ball.”  Any chance he can get to play the game, he will.  Even in sixth grade, when Wes began wrestling, he told the coach, “Just want to let you know that I am wrestling just to stay in shape for baseball.”   Now, he’s saying, “I want to play ball, Dad.  I want to be on varsity.”

He just found out today that he will be playing JV and suiting up for some games in Varsity.  Now, for the average person and some of his friends, making JV is fine.  But for Wes, it’s a let done.  He wants to be with the best and do his best and play the best.  My husband and I know that he will make Varsity during his high school career if he keeps working hard.  He just has to keep focused and positive.  Such a hard lesson to learn.

I remember being disappointed not making the position that I thought I should.  What I do remember is that through the disappointment, I grew.  I grew and it made me better.  My wish is that Wes will grow through this situation too.

(I’m proud of you, son.  You CAN do it!)

Slice of Life 16: Being Needed

March 16, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge Hosted by Two Writing Teachers

I have enjoyed a wonderful conference here in Michigan.  I enjoyed my room, my friends, and not cooking.  I especially loved learning!  I have many insights to share with my teachers when I return to school tomorrow.

But I’m ready to return home.  I believe my family is ready for me to be home.  It’s nice to be needed.  My husband has done a wonderful job keeping up with the three kids and their activities plus meals these past four days.  I can tell, though, that I’m needed.  Elizabeth asked last night when I was returning today and reminded me that she had CWA after school.  Wesley called two hours after I had finished talking with everyone wondering when I was returning today and could I remember where his baseball red belt was.  As I gave him instructions over the phone, he finally found the belt (in the first place I told him to look).  My husband called this morning and asked what time school began.  Timothy couldn’t remember. (He rides to school with me each morning and stays in my room until the bell rings.  Go figure he couldn’t remember the exact time school started.)  My husband ended the conversation asking when I would be home today.  I believe I heard relief in his voice.  Oh to be needed.  I’m glad.  That’s what makes a family.

Slice of Life 15: Noticing the Little Things

March 15, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge Hosted by Two Writing Teachers

I’m sitting in the hotel lobby right now using the complimentary guest computer.  I was beginning to write about boy readers when I noticed a lady cleaning the lobby area nearby.  Bucket filling has become part of me.  I enjoy noticing the good people do.  We have such busy, demanding lives that the little things often get overlooked.  A kind word goes a long way – and it doesn’t take much time.

So, I’m sitting here thinking of how to share some information when my eye catches the lady bending down to dust the pots of the plants.  She wipes down the railing, top and bottom.  She straightens and picks up some lint on the floor.  The lady saw me noticing her and came over to empty the trash can nearby.  She smiled mannerly.  “You are doing a wonderful job keeping this place beautiful,”  I commented.  The lady’s smile spread wide with teeth showing.

“Oh, thank you.  You like it?” she replied with an accent that made me listen more closely.

“Yes.  You’ve done a wonderful thing!”  I stated again.  She then pointed to her name tag and introduced herself.  She added, “If you like, please let the manager know.”  I wrote her name down and plan to do so.  She left with a smile on her face.

Noticing the good job she was doing didn’t cost me anything extra.  In fact, I’m smiling and feeling better.  Think of how much better you would work if someone noticed the little things you do in your work or at home.  It would have a positive affect on you.

As I return to school, I want to remember to notice the little things the students do.  A simple noticing may boost a child’s mood.   A simple noticing may encourage a child’s effort.  A simple noticing may reciprocate a simple noticing.

Slice of Life 14: Editing Skills

March 14, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge Hosted by Two Writing Teachers

Today has been exciting!!  My brain is ready for a break, but I wanted to capture a session I went to today.  I heard Jeff Anderson speak on “Express-Lane Editing”.  He has written the book Mechanically Inclined (which I had to buy).  Jeff shared how to make editing stick with students within the writing process.  Often times, teachers often have students practice editing skills and believe that they have taught the skill.  Jeff said that “practice is just practice; it’s not teaching.”  We have to intentionally teach the skill.

Jeff Anderson recommends using mentor texts to begin the process of immersion and learning, referencing Janet Angelillo.  What I learned the most was to use this quick editing check during the drafting.  He suggests teaching them to reread looking for one punctuation skill within two minutes at the end of the workshop writing time. 

For example, on day one of the draft, they are to read down say half a page and make a line.  During the two minutes, the students look at that section for the punctuation.  Sure, the kids can read on and look for more, but it’s the practice of rereading that helps.  It’s also just enabling our students to feel confident when focusing only on one area of need.

I know that Jeff explained much better than I on this blog, so I highly recommend reading the article and/or the book.  He makes sense.  Our kids struggle punctuating and having it stick.  Jeff wrote an article for Voices in the Middle about Express-Lane Editing.  Click the link to get to the article. 

Side note:  the cell phone was on vibrate but I did receive texts.  My youngest is sick and my husband is taking care of him, after fixing the brakes on the van.  Our two older children won first place in their quiz bowls today, so they are excited.  Me, I’m ready for a meal out – one that I don’t have to cook or clean up!!  Last night, I went to dinner at a unique place that had duelling piano players.  It’s an experience I will not forget soon.

Slice of Life 13: Off to Michigan

March 13, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge Hosted by Two Writing Teachers

I have been planning on attending the Michigan Reading Conference since  I left last year.  So, with only a few hours away, I’m psyched.  I enjoy learning and growing and gaining new insights.

But part of my excitement is that I get to be around colleagues ,who are friends, going with the same goal in mind:  learning.  I love being able to process my learning with a friend.  It makes the information even more  memorable.  I usually am able to process a plan of action when discussing  my new learning. 

Having another perspective is also important.  Often what I hear and what my colleagues hear may be different; we’re learning from a different angle.  It’s good. It’s good to think beyond my opinion.  This process of learning also helps me connect with my students.  It gives me a glimpse into there learning.

Leaving for the conference has brought some anxiety on as well.  I was checking with my three children about what they would be wearing for a special event this weekend and also if they knew what outfit they’d wear on Monday for school.  My daughter, a sixth grader, said, “Mom, stop worrying.  You’re worrying too much.” 

“I know,” I replied.  “I just want to make sure you are prepared.”  I’m thankful for cell phones as we’ll be in touch.  A mother’s work is never done.  A teacher’s work is never done.

Slice of Life 12: Writing Territories

March 12, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge Hosted by Two Writing Teachers

Today I heard Carl Anderson speak on conferring with writers.  I always enjoy seeing him again, as he has been a mentor to me since I’ve become a literacy coach.  Carl spoke about writers having writing territories, topics that they return to and write a lot about.  We often have children who like to write about the same topic, and that’s okay.

The discussion sparked a memory I had of a retired first grade teacher, Mrs. L.  She was trained and began implementing writer’s workshop three years prior to her retirement.  Mrs. L said that she was ending her teaching career on a high note.

She had a particular red-headed first grade boy who loved to write about his swimming pool.  Day after day, Phil wrote about activities he did surrounding his pool.  Even if he tried another topic, he somehow would tag in a page about his pool.

Finally one day in February, Mrs. L conferenced with him.  Phil began to share his idea and then stated something about his pool, a tag on.  Mrs. L looked at Phil and said, “Phil, I’m sorry to say that it is February and the pool is closed!”

I laugh thinking about her way of trying to have the little first grader try something other than “the pool”.  I believe Phil felt comfortable with his topic and was having trouble releasing it.  Phil did write more pool stories that year, but he did learn how to move on and try some new ideas in a risk-taking safe environment.  I’m glad Mrs. L was there to confer with him.  Otherwise, Phil might still be swimming in the pool.

Slice of Life 11: Writer’s Block

March 11, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by TwoWritingTeachers

I have been thinking of different things to write about and for some reason my mind keeps popping up with blank ideas.  Well, not blank ideas.  Just ideas I think don’t others will want to read.  Or, I think the idea might be insignificant.  Or, I’m not sure how to form the words for what I want to say.

Then I began to think of the students I have worked with.  Sometimes they sit in class and say, “I don’t have any ideas.”  You know what – I believe them.  I mean, I don’t believe they don’t have ideas.  I believe that they are evaluating their ideas like I was above and not giving the ideas a chance to bloom.

You know what I did?  I began to read others blog entries for today.  Each one gave me an idea.  I admired the writing and then noticed ways the words were creatively shared.  It made sense to read others works in order to spur an idea for me.

Now, I have listed in my notebook some possible ideas to capture.  I must not let the little voice in my head say, “That’s not worthy of writing.”  Instead I must let the cheerleader’s voice say, “Go for it.  Try it.”  Once again, this writing challenge is helping me to get a better glimpse into how I am a writer.

Slice of Life 10: Worrying

March 10, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by TwoWritingTeachers

I remember my senior year of high school.  I was sitting in government class when my name was called over the loud speaker to come to the Principal’s office.  The Principal’s office?  I remember wondering.  I immediately began worrying – what did I do?  I had never been to the Principal’s office and here I was going.  I did my best to listen in school and was respectful to my teachers.  I was quiet (yes, for those of you who know me, I really was).  I was unsure and always questioning myself.

So walking down the stairs and heading to the Principal’s office, my heart pounded.  What are mom and dad going to say?  I racked my brain and still could not think of anything that I had done wrong.  The secretary saw me enter, smiled softly  and said to go on in to the Principal’s office.  I hesitated for just a moment – oh, no!  Something horrible has happened to mom or dad.  I bet someone is in the hospital, a car crash.  Unpleasant thoughts went through my head during those few seconds.

Turning the nob, I entered.  I stopped almost immediately and then became puzzled.  What was Kevin doing in here?   A class mate of mine who I had in several classes, Kevin was smiling – smiling.  I wondered why we were here together.  Even then, I did not get a clue that something good might be happening.

I sat down.  Mr. B said, “Well, I want to begin by congratulating you both on an honorable job you have done here at SCHS.  I’m proud to know that you  have the qualifications to become whatever you want to be.  SCHS is proud of  you.”  I remember smiling politely, but still being confused.  It’s comical looking back.

Mr. B continued, “I want to be the first to congratulate you, Kevin, on becoming the class valedictorian.  And you, MaryHelen, on being the class salutatorian.”  Kevin was grinning from ear to ear.  Me, I was just re-leaved.  I was re-leaved that I wasn’t getting a detention or that my parents weren’t in a car wreck or any other horrible thought I had been having.

Salutatorian.  Salutatorian???   “Oh, thank you,”  I managed to say.  Because my heart still was racing, my enthusiasm was not at it’s height at that moment.  Who would have thought that I was being called in for an honor?  I learned a lesson that day.  I needed to be looking at the full side of the glass, not the empty part.