Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Looking good

I still do NOT like bulletin boards.  In fact, I really do NOT like them at all...There is NO way that hanging the writing of children in the hallway can be much more than an way of rewarding good handwriting.
YET, I do them, because they are a way of inviting students into our world and a way of "showing off" some of what they do!
In today's world, your classroom is a reflection on YOU as a teacher....just as what you wear and the activities you do!  Your bulletin boards AND your classroom presentation can and will be judged.  This is not really a bad thing as we WANT students to WANT to come to school and we WANT our classrooms to be open and inviting spaces. 
Yet, MANY of us are using old broken down desks and making do with furniture and accessories that are less than ideal.
While I can not take credit for FINDING this site...I am proud to PASS it along....
We are the "interior decorators" of our classroom environments...and with a little planning...we can always make things better than they are...without spending a ton of money...
SO, pass it along....

Right Around the Corner

Two summers ago, my husband got out the bikes that sat for many years and said, "What do you think about going on a bike ride?"  It had been at least 12 years since either of us had been on a bike and there was laundry to do...and sewing I could have done; however, we checked the tires and threw the bikes in the back of our truck and headed to one of the bike trails that we had heard of in eastern Dutchess County.  It was scary at first, but you really do not forget how to ride and we did 22 miles of bike trail that day.  I was tired that day!  Last summer, explorations of the area's "bike trails" expanded to include some MAGNIFICENT trails that offer bike riding along the paths where trains once transversed our area.  As I rode along, I felt very close to the strong women and men who rode along those paths a century ago.  The views were breathtaking and I could not imagine how we let these treasures sit unopened for so long!
But on this cold rainy ALMOST December morning, this post is not about bike riding - that is FAR from my mind this's just that during my time on the treadmill....I was thinking about all the things that DO get away...all the things I do NOT stop to take the time to do....things that are RIGHT around the corner from my daily life....cookies I WANT to bake and I WANT to make....PLACES I WANT TO GO........I know I set a good example for others about how to work hard and be conscientious....but I need to work much harder at doing what I WANT to do....and enjoying the beauty and majesty in every little thing - around every corner....

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Some of my fondest memories of my adult life are days spent with my cousin, an avid bargain shopper, scouring outlets and discount stores in the Big Apple and in Historic Hudson.  I will always remember fondly the long hours in Filenes as my daughter explored the new world of clothes as a preteen.  I will always treasure a shopping trip toRhiebeck with my husband on "Small Business Saturday" - what a bookstore we found - and he did not rush me because they had snacks!

I must admit I really do enjoy a good shopping trip - the kind where you come home with a few bulging bags and the grin that indicates you secured at least one fabulous bargain.  There is a thrill in that hunt and the victory that I suspect mirrors the enjoyment hunters and fishermen seek as they wait for their prey and then rejoice in their catch.  Perhaps that part goes all the way back to our early roots as hunters and gatherers!

Yet, I need very little in the line of the "stuff" that fills the carts of shoppers everywhere this time of year.  Yet, this is a world that makes us year of "things" to give and to get.....things that will make us happy or make our lives more complete. What I would like more that anything else is the gift of time - to spend time with my now adult children and the loves of their lives.  I would like to take my mother to a get-dressed-up magical lunch.  I would like to take someone special to an all expense paid shopping questions asked....I would like to see the Nutcracker through the eyes of a child....I woudl like to make tons of my best and only cookie...the gingerbread man...and share them with eveyone before Christmas....

So I guess that is my list.....I need the line of gifts per se.....It's my life, my family, my friends that really and truly matter. I just hope I can remember this when I am in line at some point this month...even if it is for more molasses.....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Pilgrims did NOT come over with Columbus

The best link

*  for sharing the story of the first Thanksgiving
*  making it come to life for our kids of all ages 

DO NOT assume they "know it"....they know pieces of ths story....

FOR THE RECORD:  the Pilgims did NOT come over with Columbus on one of his 3 boats.....sigh...even though both holidays are in the fall.....


There are millions of children all over America who were asked to write about what they are thankful for this holicay season.  Most of them were encouraged to look beyond the "things" in their life and reflect on "bigger ideas" and themes. I've read a lot of those entries over the years and know that kids' love for Legos and Wiis really is different from their love of their families.  
In the spirit and message of this season, when we reflect on how (and why?) the Native Americans helped the strange "coat people" who desended on their land just as winter was ready to begin, we should indeed be thinking about and remembering our families - those linked by blood and those created from love.  We should also be remembering those we are grateful for in our lives.  Those in our networks of family members and friends - some old some new - some near and some far- who are part of our nextwork of love and support.  I am.
In the spirit and message of this season, I do think it is also "all right" to reflect on some "things" that have helped us through this busy season of our lives.  I am grateful that I found the relasing endomorphins that come from long walks.  Those powerful substances that have helped me through my own dark and stressful days. 
I am grateful for the best jobs on earth.  I watch the miracle of learning to read again and again.  It is amazing and wonderful - every time.  I know the potential impact of everything I say - and do - in every class I teach - and I do not take that power lightly nor carelessly - I am grateful for the opportunity to shape the future every day. 
Interestingly, this "forum" is another thing for which I am grateful.  It really does give me a way to organize my thoughts and ideas - even if no one other than me ever reads them.  At this point in my life - I have a lot to say - and I really have found a way to lead "the writerly life" I have sought since that first TC workshop long ago in the summer of '88. 
In the spirit and message of this season, I am also grateful for the NY Times and yes - even the Poughkeepsie Journal that allow me to glimpse outside of my own small daily circle of experiences and ideas.  They are indeed my mentor texts and scaffold my thinking.  So, while they sure are not giving me a "free" subscription  or anything.....I know that while our mentors may come to us primarily electronically in days to come, those that spur my thinking outside of my "sphere" are right there behind those people who have helped me transverse this year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Parents AND Teachers

My Dad was an avid reader of the NY Times and a DEVOTED reader of its editorial page.  When he grew too weak and weary to even sit up and read the NY Times himself, I sat by his bedside reading the editorials to him.  Tom Friedman was one of his favorites even though he admittedly predicted erroneously the demise of Amazon (who knows - I might just be part of the reason that Amazon is still around!)
Anyway, I am confident that my Dad would smile when he read the editorial below about PARENTS and teachers. 

Long before it was known to impact achievement, my parents read to their kids every day. We had no TV and precious few books in our very tiny "mobile home" (trailer); however, those books were treasures we shared and moments where we glimpsed at the lives of others.  I certainly grew up knowing, without being told, that books could take you places - almost anywhere. 

Yes, I did read LOTS of books to my own kids when they were little; however, as working parents we had lots of books to choose from and lots of potential distractions in our busy lives including the Muppets (back this weekend in a revival destined to distract those now adult kids). 

As a busy working mother, sometimes I taught GED classes at night.  Lots of nights there was only one parent home in the evening and we were rushed as we struggled to "get it all done" and into bed at a reasonable hour.  I do know the stresses that busy parents feel. There are always OTHER things that we SHOULD do if our houses and clothes are to be clean. Our lives are very busy and it is hard to juggle everything effectively.  BUT, our interactions with our children are critically important to their success as students and people.

WHEN THIS LINK appeared in my "e-reader" as a forward from a group of literacy specialists, I knew I had to share at least a part of it.....because it reminds US (teachers) that OUR teaching is much easier when we have the support of parents.  MOST of the time, we can get that support IF we ask for it and IF we tell parents how important their support is.

When we can't get that support, we can still do our very best to close the GAP for those kids.  We have to read to them even more - and talk with them even more - and not give up - while knowing that we are indeed climbing up against a ceiling of achievement that will try to keep those kids down.....

I guess the message of the article abstract below is that WE can do our best work WITH parents as children's first and most important teachers.   


How About Better Parents?By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

Published: November 19, 2011

IN recent years, we’ve been treated to reams of op-ed articles about how we need better teachers in our public schools and, if only the teachers’ unions would go away, our kids would score like Singapore’s on the big international tests. There’s no question that a great teacher can make a huge difference in a student’s achievement, and we need to recruit, train and reward more such teachers. But here’s what some new studies are also showing: We need better parents. Parents more focused on their children’s education can also make a huge difference in a student’s achievement.

......................Schleicher explained ... “just asking your child how was their school day and showing genuine interest in the learning that they are doing can have the same impact as hours of private tutoring. It is something every parent can do, no matter what their education level or social background.”.............

........................For instance, the PISA study revealed that “students whose parents reported that they had read a book with their child ‘every day or almost every day’ or ‘once or twice a week’ during the first year of primary school have markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents reported that they had read a book with their child ‘never or almost never’ or only ‘once or twice a month.’ On average, the score difference is 25 points, the equivalent of well over half a school year.” .....

To be sure, there is no substitute for a good teacher. There is nothing more valuable than great classroom instruction. But let’s stop putting the whole burden on teachers. We also need better parents. Better parents can make every teacher more effective.

The whole article:

tom friedman tbi

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dear Gov.Christie

As Joan Rivers would say, "We need to talk." 
While the great thing about living in America is that we CAN have differing opinions and ideas, I need to make it clear that those of us whose every word and action WILL directly impact others totally disagree with you.
If I did not have to get to work early today so that I can 1) turn in my report cards; 2) prepare for my little people; 3) impact the future; 4) be ready when they arrive, I would write more on this subject.
For now, just for the record, we need Kindergarten and Physical Education teachers - not the kind who just put out the blocks or roll out the balls - the kind who provide our children with foundations that desire to learn physics and be healthy citizens.
As Arnold said before his fall from grace, "I'll be back."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kale: A Metaphor For Living

Until recently, I never even thought of cooking kale for dinner.  In fact, I really didn't know what it was - nor did I care.  But things have changed for me as the "fruits" of my CSA share have dwindled into the crops that survived our October Blizzard - and KALE is a big winner on that front!
Just for the record, kale is a form of cabbage (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group) but thel leaves do not form a head. Like its "cousins" (broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and bBrussels sprouts), kale is low in calories but high in vitamins particularly K, C and calcium.
When I did a bit of research on kale, I found out that until the Middle Ages, kale was one of the most common green vegetables in all of Europe. During World War II, kale was an iimportant veggie in home gardens on both sides of the pond. 
I've now tried quite a few ways of cooking and eating this magnificent veggie. Add some risotto and it is full of calories, flavor and will remain in your heart all night long.  Blanch it and then stir fry a huge pile of leaves, and you will have a feast. 
The bad news, and of course there is always something wrong with every meal, is that the prep time for kale is huge.  You have to wash and then "devein" and then drain and then cook and drain some more.  While all that IS a lot more work than popping a bag of microwavable veggies in the silver box on the counter, the nutritional and comfort level that comes from kale cannot be beat.  I am NOW SO SORRY I went SO many years before I tried it. 
Now, I need to start figuring out what other aspects of life I might have missed...I  need to make sure I do not "miss" all the other -not-yet-known-to-me great things this life has to offer (the pyramids? some great beach? a special person or two?).  While I had a pretty good life out there before kale, it has grown better with kale! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

If you teach first grade, you gotta read this book

Product Details

I've know for some time that SOME day, a special 6-year old in my life who I have been sharing books with - for about 6 years - would be telling ME what to read. And it has happened!  Her mom found it at the school book sale and Silly Milly will be on every first grade teacher's "must have list" !!!!

It's not the only "Silly Milly" book but this one is the best by far.  It actually took ME - me who has read more children's books that you could count - me who has an advanced degree in literacy - quite a few pages to figure out that Milly only packs things that are compound words in her ""!

I have already ordered me a copy - sigh and have already planned my "kids write" sequels: Mrs. Ferreri Is On the Move (about verbs); Mrs. Ferreri and the Beautiful Day (about adjectives).....sigh...I can't wait...and yes I know it is a "vacation" day...and that I have TONS of report cards to finish...and that the paperwork, APPR, CCS, IEP, RtI, and other stuff is ready to overtake me this month,,,but I am still pretty excited....

Pretty soon, perhaps already, she'll be onto new characters and we'll be discussing Sarah Laura, Nate, Cam.....who I know very well...but we'll also be discussing, I hope, the characters that SHE finds who will become MY new BFFs! 

I can't wait....'cause 6 is pretty special...and there are a WHOLE lot of books out there for US to explore!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Harvesting 21st Century Style

As I stood at my kitchen counter washing, cutting and blanching still more "fruit" of our Community Supported Agriculture summer, I was thinking about the Common Core Standards (CCS) presentation I had been to the day before.  (Don't look at me as if I were weird - there must be some other people  think about the impact of the Common Core Standards on their preofessional lives while they are cleaning or cooking!)
Anyway, as my mind wandered and my chopping block filled with veggies, I was reminded that the most likely impact of these new CCS is to encourage teachers to: move out of our comfort zones,rethink what we have done in the past; consider new ideas; and try new materials methods and assessments.  Surely, the CCS move things up a notch or two (not as much for schools that have already done so in order to stay on "top" of the competition).  Surely, the CCS help move us in a direction assuring students in every state have similar expectations (a good thing in a mobile society).
Surely, the CCS ask us to revisit how we are currently teaching (even is we have just completed a curriculum review cycle).  Surely, the CCS encourage us to think of creative ways such as integrating the curriculum (oh yes, Mary Lynne and Mary Ellen - those curriculum units we published long ago are back in style!)
As I smiled softly, I was thinking that it is not just the recyling of old ideas that keeps us from getting stale; it is also going back to ways of working and living that bring us to new levels of understanding.  So in my mind, I am comparing the CCS with my summer harvest from my CSA.  The summer where I came up with INFINITE ways (thanks to the internet) of cooking INFINITE BOXES of snowpeas, beans, tomatoes, eggplants, kale, swiss chard, and peppers.  The summer when I made salsa, caponata, gabanoush, procusiutto pizza, hot goat cheese salad........all from scratch.  The summer when I filled my freezer with frozen veggies that were organically grown and prepared for a winter of endless harvests from my basement.  The summer when I got excited really about cooking and eating because I moved out of my comfort zone, rethought what I had done in the past; considered new ideas; and tried new materials methods and assessments. Surely, my CSA and the CCS BOTH move things up a notch or two.  Surely, my CSA and the CCS BOTH make us rethink what we are doing.  And, surely, my CSA and the CCS make those who have already traveled those familiar paths smile. 

the little engine that could

SO today it happened...and it was not the first time it ever happened..nor the first time I had seen it happen...nor the only time it happened today...but around 1:05 this afternoon, in the corner of my classroom, a child "took off' as a reader.  Not just any child...but a child for whom reading and writing are particularly challenging due to a specific language disability - typically known as dyslexia. 

This child has been working HARD to become a reader but it has not been easy. He has watched his classmates and perhaps even a sibling pass him by...and yet WE did not give up on him even when he avoided reading like the plague.

Today, as I listened to him read, I grabbed the 21st Century equivalent of an notepad - my cell phone - and hurridly recorded a video to share with his teacher, last year's teacher and his parents.  There were a few tears rolling down my cheek as he continued on after rereading the pages we had previously read together.  He read on with such confidence - so enganged in the stoy ... and so confident of his emerging strategies that he did not even notice or comment on my cell phone....he was reading ...and reading as a reader...engaged in the text and transformed into the characters...and the setting...and the story....

"That was great," he noted when I had to send him back to class for "free choice" Friday...he did not need to ask for an eraser nor a pencil for his efforts today...nor did he need my specific praise for what he had done well...while he could not yet articulate what I happened this afternoon, we both explicitly because it is my area of research and expertise....and he because there was a lilt in his step and a glow in his face.....

The road is still long and full of road mines as it always is for kids with real dyslexia....but today, we headed down that path towards confident and competent reading.....

As you might be able to tell....I am still smiling....and I will go to bed tonight with a smile on my face...and a glow in my heart that you can only know...when you have traveled on that rough road towards reading.....

Yes, I am high tonight...and now you know why.....I only wish I could share the video with everyone...but there are parents tonight whose hearts are lighter and who are also a bit "high" they know the glow in your heart that comes when you have traveled that rough road towards reading....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reflecting on Blackout # 5 for 2011

Sadly, as I write tonight, I know there are still MANY people in the Northeast who are still without power and Internet services who even if they WANTED TO and somehow were AWARE of the blog, would not be able to stop by to stop and think. 

It's been hard to live without power and without Internet...there are no other words to describe it.   Maybe it's my age, or maybe it' the fact that it has only been 4 weeks since Hurricane Irene disrupted our flow; whatever the reason, this one was hard.  I have felt isolated and alone...and somehow disconnected...and yet in spite of all the frustration and difficulties, of living a little bit like Laura Ingells Wilder (except we did have a powerpac to charge our cell phones and a radio that ran off said powerpac) I know there has been some wonderful messages learned and new friendships forged.  Like my 80+ mom and pushing 90 aunt along with a caregiver who "bunked" for 3 days with my sister-in-law, HER friend and HER friend's 8 year old.  6 women in a kitchen.....and they did become "unlikely but necessary friends" at the was quite the sight...not enough beds with handicapped access (is there anyone who has that?) ..but more than enough warmth and friendships that blossomed to create memories that will last forever.
My husband's new friends..the's been a few years...but when the power is out...we all seem to meet up...and talk...and find so much in our need for generators for the NEXT time...
There are millions of small miracles that have emerged from this nightmare....and I suspect that we are supposed to learn a lesson in compassion and reflection from the experience.  I know that it has been hard...but I know that I will appreciate this humble desktop computer and my Optonline service a little more....and I am indeed grateful that it is NOT really the days of Laura Ingells Wilder...because we all need to do a lot more communicating these days!