Thursday, December 8, 2016

#Through MY lens

For a couple of years, we've been reciting a "morning reminder" about being "kind and respectful" each day after the pledge in my school.   I admit I "lift" those lines multiple times each day as I "scold" students who are locking bathroom stalls or water painting on the bathroom walls.  I use those lines as a reminder to control one's excitement when the excited hordes pass my room on their way to lunch or recess.  I think of the message as I choose words to convince reluctant readers to read or hesitant writers to write.

This morning (perhaps because a tractor trailer cut me off and threatened to send me off the highway or perhaps because I witnessed a few particularly unkind interactions this week) I was thinking about the need for ALL of us with beating and caring hearts (administrators, teachers, para-professionals, students, doctors, dental hygienists, hairdressers, police, salespersons, drivers, parking lot attendants, long haul drivers .....) to keep not just the words but also actions associated with kindness and respectfulness near our hearts as we go about our daily interactions.  We never know the challenges/demons/battles/stress/conflicts/problems/needs that others are facing at that moment.  We can never imagine who is care-giving and who has not slept because they worked a second shift. We  do know that our words/actions/ decisions/ideas/sensitivity/acts of kindness/ability to hold our tongues can make a difference in someone's life

Truth be told, my own life has been pretty stressful in the past few years.  Truth be told, most everyone I know have had stress. On those tough days, when the bills to be paid and papers to be graded pile up toward the skies, I sometimes focus too much on my needs and forget to think about others!  I suspect that tractor trailer driver this morning had thoughts on his mind that kept him from thinking about little me in my tiny Mazda 3. I suspect we are not alone.

Perhaps that tractor trailer and those unkind interactions from my friends/colleagues/acquaintances  were "reminders" to me and perhaps to you of the Golden Rule: DO unto others as you would have others do unto you."

Monday, December 5, 2016

#sol16 Through Raccoon Eyes I See

Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward. - Victor Kiam"What happened to you?" my colleague asked with a pained expression when she saw me days later not realizing, of course, that I already looked much, much, much better!

"What happened to your face?" the 6 year old asked me quietly trying to be polite as she tried to discern what happened to me.

It happened quickly and without warning.  One minute, I was standing, holding multiple heavy bags on my shoulders and pulling the garbage and recycling cans to the curb!  The next minute, I was lying on the ground, not sure what had happened, and engulfed in bodily fluids!  As most of us who work with kids know, head wounds bleed A LOT!  It looked like a scene from the Godfather!

I survived
an early morning trip to the emergency room where I had to explain that there had not been a crash where the air bag deployed and there had not been a wild night of mechanical bull riding!  I endured a CAT scan to clarify that the raccoon-like look emerging around my eyes was not some kind of mascara war gone awry.  I tolerated a few stitches and some glue to close up a nice gash and was grateful for ice packs that alleviated some of the discomfort.

The reminder is that It can happen to any of us.  It can happen in the blink of an eye.  It can force us to slow down for a few days and rethink our priorities.  It can provide time to check out Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and our Blogs!  It can allow us to create holiday decorations from the holly and pine boughs in our yard!   It made me look like a raccoon, but It could have been much worse.  As the wonderful quote I found on Facebook reminds us, "Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#sol2016 A Different Holiday

 I really wasn't sure IF I wanted to do anything?
I could watch the parade and eat turkey soup.
No guests, no holiday requirements.
No worries about icy driveways.
No welcoming far flung children, 
Parents, siblings, to my home.
I had not admitted the sadness, even to myself,
As I faced another,
Different holiday season.

Then, in a turn of events 
I could not see coming,
The stars aligned 
In an unlikely way.
I found myself 
Care-giving for my Aunt,
Who never wanted to do anything 
Other than watch the parade, or 
Eat a turkey sandwich
On that food and family filled holiday.

However, this year,
She was we joined not only by me,
But also,
By a great-niece she had not seen in many years,
A great-nephew she had never met,
A shedding dog with endless kisses,
A great-great niece, taking her first steps,
"Eating" her first Thanksgiving dinner.
Piles of roasted, not mashed, veggies,
Dressing, fresh from a box,
Homemade cranberry sauce,
Squeals, laughter and a
Football game on TV.

"Bye-bye," they waved, as the guests,
Exhausted from travel,
Plates, laden with food,
Pie, with a side of ice cream,
Walking all over the place,
Licking, smelling, the new place, 
Providing entertainment,
Headed on a long journey home, 
To bed or crib!

"It was the best Thanksgiving in at least
25 years," she sighed,
 As I helped her into bed
And thought how Out Of Her Comfort Zone
She must have been.
"That was fun!
I'll sleep well tonight!"

I smiled a happy smile,
As happy tears rolled
Down my cheeks,
 As I took care of dog hair
On the carpet,
Bits of corn 
On the floor,
The pile of dishes,
 We made.

"Families grow, suffer losses, 
Holiday tables and gatherings 
That is the way it supposed to be,"
I thought
Sadly at first but also
Remembering, happily
Those not with us 
Because they too were needed 
At other tables.
Remembering, loving, 
Those who have passed from Earth,
Remembering, sadly 
Those we have loved and lost.

"Thank goodness I stopped for those pies," 
I smiled as I sipped my end-of-the-day tea.
Some things do not change!


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Post Halloween in Classrooms

We were deep into a lesson that started with "shared reading" of the first few pages of The Surprise in order to engage my reluctant-to-read-texts-that-appear-hard first graders who were trick-or-treating 24 hours earlier.  They were fully engaged in the shared part of the lesson, so I felt comfortable that the syntactically predictable text was going to be readable for each of the readers around me as the lesson morphed into a "guided reading" lesson.  

Confidently, two of the readers became engrossed in the story and appeared eager to get to the surprise ending.  As I leaned in to hear the student to my left whisper read and asked a few questions about the text, the little reader in the middle reached over and quickly "tapped" the pages in the book where this little reader wrestled with words.

I gave him one of those "glances" that teachers use to replace words and he went right back into reading...or so at least I thought....for about 30 seconds...and then reached over and tapped his neighbor's book again.

So I gave him a glance but this time leaned over and asked what he was doing? 
"I don't know," he responded as he began whisper reading.  Yet, seconds later, he was tapping his neighbor's book again even with my attention and focus on him!

"What's going on," I whispered as I pulled his seat right next to mine? 

"I don't know," he shrugged this time looking a bit remorseful.

"You have to be respectful as your friends read," I reminded him.

"I think my hands are fulled with energy," he said sadly, "I can't keep them with me."

"What did you have for breakfast?" I asked already pretty sure I knew the answer.

"A candy bar, a Twix bar, gummy bears, and a couple of Starbursts," he smiled remembering the sugar laden post-Halloween splurge.   

There was no response and no "look" that could offer to help him get through the "sugar high" he was clearly experiencing. So I wrapped my arms around his and softly began sharing the reading with him.  At this post Halloween moment, this little reader would need a little more support in order to get to the Surprise at the end of the text.

At that post-Halloween moment, I was in concert with teachers and parents everywhere who had to give a little more, hold students a little tighter, and watch a little closer as our students recovered from that holiday where we scare them, rile them up, excite them, and fill them up on more candy than they could ever eat on their own.  

Fortunately, the next day, his candy had "disappeared" and he "had" to eat Cheerios for breakfast!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Sharpener

My mom was meticulous about "giving away" her things to people who would use them.  As a child of the depression, she abhorred waste and hated the idea that things with some life left in them would find their way into the trash.  Most important, however, was her desire for each of her children and grandchildren to have some things around that would serve as "Nan" reminders!  It's been almost a year since she passed away, and I do treasure a few glasses and some dishes I have as my reminders more and more.
Yet, it is an old pencil sharpener that she had on her desk for many years that has provided smiles and happy reminders during this year-without-her.  I'm going to sound like my mother, now, but they don't make things like they used to!  Seriously, even the $60 pencil sharpener I got at Staples a while back broke pencil points better than it sharpened them!   
In some strange way, it feels like my mom smiles every time I sharpen a pencil with my new-to-me 1980's era, early electric pencil sharpener!Panasonic Kp-77 Auto-stop Electric Pencil Sharpener - Excellent Condition

By the way, I found one like it on ebay....

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Getting through the fog and the hard parts

Over the past  year, my posts have been far and few between while I have struggled with how much to share of the challenges that have altered the small moments of my world.  How can write about the endless despair that has hung like fog over mind? However, there are moments when the fog abates and the wonderful small moments glare me in the eye.  The other day, as I screened students for "oral reading fluency," one student "gave" me a reminder to blog, so I can remember,  the incredible small moments in a teacher's life.

I asked this student to read from short passages of text for just a minute. The first few paragraphs were somewhat phonetically regular and the passages were awkward to read as controlled texts usually are.  But, this student "nailed" the reading in fluency, prosody and accuracy!

So mindful of our human need for acknowledgement, I leaned in to acknowledge her fluent and confident reading.  As I leaned in, so did she; however, she talked first.  "That really was not a good story, you know," she admonished me!  "You should get a better story for the next kid so he won't be bored like I was."

There were lots of things I could have said at that moment; however, I decided I needed to include this insightful 6 year old "in the loop."

"Thanks for telling me," I said softly, "I appreciate your feedback!"  She smiled from ear-to-ear ad skipped back (literally and figuratively) to class.

I'm not sure what else would transpire in that child's day; however, I am very glad she was in my "loop" that day.  If there is a central message in all of this saga it might be this:  we all need and want feedback - even if it is a "point of growth."   In addition, I am reminded that acknowledging the small moments of our lives is a powerful tool: it can help us see through the fog.

Friday, October 21, 2016

National Day on Writing

Yesterday was a "National Day on Writing"," and I MEANT to write!  I mean to write many, many days; however, I've been out of the "writing habit" so to speak and the less I write, the harder it is to find ideas about which to write! It certainly seems illogical, but this is the reason writing gurus have long said we need to write every day.  Writing, like reading, needs to be a part of every day so that we see ourselves as writers!

Besides, I had LOTS of excuses!  I had papers to read and pre-observation plans to write! I have not really done anything "exciting" at work or at home; thus, I had an excuse..... I had so much to do, I couldn't even find time for dieting or exercising!  

Yet, we all know my lame excuses were just that.  I really could have found time for writing, healthy eating and even some exercise....if I had tried.  And trust me, there were some pretty special small moments yesterday as I listened to about 101 students read lists of words and phonetically controlled stories.  Seriously, I SHOULD write a blog post about the first grader who quietly informed me that the phonetically decodable story I asked her to read really did not make much sense!

Instead of beating myself up for not writing yesterday, I'm going to take a page, so to speak, from the long-time diet writing/diet/exercise wars and re-commit to writing and using writing to not only remember but also to sort out and understand living and learning.  Even if YOU did not write/diet/or exercise yesterday, on the designated day, you CAN commit to writing/dieting/and or exercising today.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

First World Problems

The other day, amid the fall's early morning darkness, I pressed the key-less entry fob for my car, and nothing happened.  Nothing.  So, I pushed it again, and again, and again...and still nothing moved or beeped or bopped in the pre-dawn darkness of the driveway.
"Um.....," I said to myself as I headed back into the house to figure out next steps but in reality my mind wandered down the path if calling in "car fob won't work" to school and figuring out if AAA does car fobs while wondering where I would find a Mazda dealer and thinking I had better get another fob....
I was only in the house for a minute or two when I found the key hidden deep inside the fob..
A regular looking, yet never before seen by me, key fob had been resting and waiting, inside my bag, for the moment when it would be needed to work-in-an-old-school-way and ultimately take me where I needed to go!
Getting into the car was easy as the "key" hole, a rather old fashioned yet familiar to those of us who long ago drove cars with keys, was visible as I shone the flashlight at the door handle.  Yet, when I got INTO the car, I had another pre-dawn-panic-moment in the darkness of the driveway!
The car also has a key-less ignition!  
"Um...." I said to myself as I reached for the turn-on button....which somehow, magically, or perhaps because the key was now exposed, started just like it was supposed to do!
As I headed down the road and turned onto the busy-traffic-filled-highway, I reflected on the small, first world problem that seemed destined to derail my day...and yet was just a blimp on the radar of my day.
Amid the devastation of hurricanes, the aftermath of train crashes, the sadness of life-changing illness, and thestress associated with elections and living in our busy, modern world, my small, first world kind of a problem really is not much of a problem.  
Yet, it was a reminder that we all need to put our stressors and problems in the proper perspective.

Monday, October 3, 2016

#sol16 Impulse Purchases

Recently, I've developed an affinity for those "big box" stores where refrigerators sit alongside stacks of plywood and piles of mums.  There I find light bulbs that will last 13 years (seriously?) and wheelbarrows that fit into mini cars.  I've also found myself drawn to smaller, more traditional hardware stores, such as a nearly ACE that has paint chips nestled among wine glasses!  This week's mission was "leaf bags," for falling leaves, and a microwave oven, for reheating. The leaf bags were easy.  Right up front.

However, I was lured into the "tool aisle" as I headed towards the back of the store and the "small appliance section."  I walked by cutters and connectors of all sizes, shapes, and powers.  It was in the middle of the aisle, that section designed to lure you in, where I found it. I picked up the demo that was nearly weightless and yet whirred in my hand.  It seemed comfortable and seemed to be calling me.  I remembered the feeling of finding something-too-good-to-pass-up at TJ Maxx or Talbots! Clearly this was impulse and not necessary, so I put it down and continued towards the small appliances.

Not finding a small microwave that met my needs, I headed to the check out area walking by "it" again.  This time, "IT" jumped into my cart where I found "IT" as I loaded the leaf bags onto the counter!  I smiled as Lila the Little Screwdriver was scanned and loaded into a bag.  And now, Lila and I are ready for small, powerful screw-driver-type-business! Our specialty, I suspect, will be those impulse jobs, like hanging a picture when I should be putting laundry away!