Saturday, March 30, 2013

#Slice of Life 2013 # 31 of 31 So many thoughts

Biscotti and pizzagiana are ready,
Eggs colored in organic food colors,
Dark chocolate bunnies ready to go,
Mousse, pumpkin, lemon meringue present,
Soft foods, Italian foods, options for all.
Carrots, asparagus ready to cook,
Seeds, garden gloves and dog beds
From the Rabbit
House vacuumed,
Dust bunnies scattered,
Tiny flowers, signs of great love,
Arranged, table set,
Visits, reflection, prayers
Those I love, those in need,
Catch up with family,
Last SOL post written.
I'll be back at school
Extra minutes on the treadmill
Life returns to "normal,"
I'll put away dishes,
I'll start a new Scrabble game
I'll work on my IEPs
I'll probably be observed :)
I'll catch up on SOLs
(Missed a few, I was cooking)
I'll say a prayer of Thanksgiving
For the Easter miracle,
For the blessing of Family,
And, for this SOL experience,
I'll start Tuesday's SOL post!


Friday, March 29, 2013

#Slice of Life 2013 #29 of 31 A Good Friday to Reflect

Good Friday meant prepare,
Dresses to sew, pants to hem,
Shop for food, candy, socks,
Clean every inch of your home,
Cooked lasagna, meatballs, lemon meringue pies,
Boil eggs, order canolis, consider rumbabas,
Bake ricotta pie.  
Lives change,
Lost loved ones,
Families grow and change,
New traffic patterns,
Morphed plans,
So we
Waited for pasta,
Walked the High Line,
Hit the Orchid Show
Prayed at the Cathedral
Lived in spite of loss,
Loved in spite of sadness,
Reflected on the past,
Looked to the future,
Created new traditions
As families do.   


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

#Slice of life 2013 #28 of 31 Reading, writing and responding will have to wait!

Long ago, I embroidered a sampler that haunts me.  I tried hard not to focus on cleaning and scrubbing; yet, if I had another shot at raising my kids I would have worried less about the bottomless laundry pile and spent more time making memories.
Today, I will have another chance to "practice what I preach."   There are is still laundry to do and the dust is piled high.  There are still papers to read, blogs to respond to, and a syllabus to finish; however, they will all wait patiently for me.  Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I am sure:
Cleaning and laundry will always be,
Papers and emails will wait for me,
I'll read and respond, in time,
But today will be spent,
Not in rhyme.
But in creating
Rabbit cupcakes,
Baby bunnies,
Memories                                                          .   

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

#SLice of Life 2013 #27 of 31 On and Off the Big White Way

The Big White Way is neither a "cheap treat" nor a spot for the meek of spirit; however, it is a destination spot that rivals Disneyworld for excitement for those on spring "break!" I was there in a relentless cold rain that eventually soaked through my winter coat and infiltrated my sweater.  I was in a "coveted position" at the head of the TKTS line where discounted tickets awaite those willing to stand in line!  In spite of my attempts to keep the blood moving, I stood so long on a cold patch of concrete that me feet, although ensconced in winter boots, could barely move when they finally opened the red line barricading the ticket window.  My gloves, warm in the winter days, had become soaked with rain and my fingers had grown white making it almost impossible to lay money on the counter! 
I do not get to the "city" often, so there were MANY plays and musicals that I wanted to see ( I would have seen anything on or off Broadway!).  I had settled on the much ballyhooed Spiderman; however, even the 50% discounted price made those tickets out of reach for a teacher!  At the advice of one of the red-jacketed TKTS line controllers, I went with an unknown play and hoped for the best. is as they say, the "grown ups prequel" to Peter Pan.  I did NOT realize this until the second half of the play; however, for 3 hours, I laughed until my sides ached and my heart filled with gratitude for the actors who played their hearts out for me (and a full house of grateful guests!)  They, like those sharing the show were neither famous nor ballyhooed; yet this wonderful  parody was a fabulous ride with actors who connected with their audience, magnificently delivered innuendos that kept you on your toes, and sincere laughter to carry me through the season of testing and teaching ahead!  

It's a little embarrassing to admit what I found as I did a little Google searching but this play is based on a children's book (by Dave Barry)!  (Sigh!) Even if I, an elementary school literacy specialist, cannot deduct the cost of the tickets and the costs of my treatment for pneumonia from my taxes next year, it was worth every penny and every moment in the rain.  While Florida and Disneyworld are great, there is nothing quite like a night on or off the Big White Way to put joy in your heart and spirit in your step.        


What is the Best Way to Prepare Professional Educators?

The article describes an immersion teaching program in Boston focusing on "what's coming to be called "practice-based" teacher education."  Charter schools, private faith based schools and city school districts that have struggled to find teachers (such as NYC in the 90's) have often used similar programs to fill classrooms.  Sometimes, there is even less support than the Boston program describe in this article. 
The vast differences in teacher preparation are perhaps even greater than might be noticed on quick look and may, in fact, may be most evident as these teachers move on in their disciplines with a focus on teaching with one, specific learned and practiced technique.  As noted in the article, the perspective is that teachers can just be "trained" for their job with a specific skill set rather than become reflective practitioners with diverse skills sets who differentiate to meet the needs of individual student and ever changing academic demands. 

I really wonder if a technician is going to be best able to promote the "deeper learning" and questioning that is the hallmark  of teaching today.   I wonder if you would want your surgeon to have only one learned way to operate on your cancer?  I question if teaching is a field where we want to know what has happened in the past so that we do not repeat mistakes?  Is teaching a skill or is it a profession? 

Without leading the witness, my own perspective is clear.  To prepare our students for the diverse and every changing world in which they will live, we need teachers with sound philosophical foundations who also know multiple ways to approach any new situation.  We need teachers who question and see answers, teachers who seek and find innovative ways to approach behavior and learning.  After many years of teaching, I have watched teachers (and administrators) whose foundations for their profession were built without a theoretical base for what they do.  They usually struggle to accept change and focus on a narrow and limited view of what should be based on what they know! 


#Slice of Life 2013 # 26 of 31 Sunoco and the Mesopotamia River

It started with restless children in a car that forever lacked a video player. The sun had set and thus the time for reading, playing, drawing and other entertainments had expired when he began.  "Did I ever tell you about Sunoco?" he queried the backseat. They quieted instantly. "Well, he began slowly," there was this Indian named Sunoco. It was clear to me, the other adult in the car, that he had absolutely no idea where this story was going as the main character was clearly named after the garage station we had just passed; however, the folks in the backseat sat with rapt attention waiting for the tale to unfold.  Over the years, Sunoco (who I suspect might have been more Native American than Indian) had some pretty amazing adventures traversing up, down, and over the "hills" of the Mesopotamia River!  He was often discussed as if he were a member of our family heritage and chapters of his story were plentiful until the people in the back seat started to forge their own paths through life, making their own stories.    

Amazingly, we were driving by Pizza Hut when we heard of his adventures getting a burger at some deer-meat spot referred to as the Hut and we had just past the South Hills Mall when we heard of his trading furs for wampum adventures at the (amazingly named) South Hills Trading Post.  At one point of his life, Sunoco mourned his Grandfather, and those in the backseat connected as they knew the pain of losing a Grandmother; Later, he found solace in family members, cousins, who shared his grief and showed him that life would go on, even if it was different.  Sunoco played stick ball with friends whenever he could (my own children loved wiffle ball with the neighbors) and rode a Flintsone-esque vehicle that sure sounded a lot like the Hot Wheels in our driveway; thus, we all seemed to "connect" to his tales of adventure.  The folks in the backseat seemed to remember where we left off and never questioned Sunoco's family heritage.  I often wanted to put the stories to paper or record them for the memories; however, I never did.  As the images of Sunoco and his adventures in Mesopotamia fade, I really wish I had.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

#SLice of Life 2013 #25 0f 31 Imagine You're 90

You're finishing the crossword
Reflecting on the years,
Life has changed.

You remember wagons
Bringing milk cans to the dairy,
You remember a first car,
Big brother George's
You remember wood stoked
Furnaces, stoves,
Home grown foods,
Homemade bread, cakes, pies.
You remember rural electricity,
How life changed.

You remember selling the farm
Moving to Brooklyn
Becoming a career girl
Busy days at the Dime,
Happy birthday wishes for my Aunt GertYielding to quiet days
With movies, puzzles, soaps.

You remember
Him, what almost was,
What might have been,
The war, sadness,
The cars, coats, clothes,
The subways, plays, movies.

You remember siblings,
All nine now passed,
You remember friends,
All now passed,
You remember today,
She'll bring cake, smile, sing,
You'll say. "I don't celebrate,"
You'll smile, laugh, celebrate.

You remember
You have your teeth
Your health,  your marbles,
Bills to pay, the Daily News to read,
Lifetime movies to watch
Yankee games ahead.

You remember the flowers
Resting on the table,
Celebrate you,
Wanna have fun,
What a ride,
Imagine you're 90.


#Slice of Life 2013 #24 of 31 Flying through Cyberspace

They arrived monthly
Some in plastic sleeves
Some for the world to see
Waited patiently on bedside stands,
Hoping to be fingered by eager readers.

Serious covers indicated professional journals
Compelling projects, crafts, cooking covered magazines
Curtains, cookies, candy, cookwares, clothes filled catalogs.

Now they fly through cyberspace,
Land on screens hoping to be noticed.
Shorter, smarter, faster, without fanfare.

We scan them on phones, tablets
Catching glimpses of our profession
Our hobbies and our dreams
While gulping coffee
While running the treadmill

Concise, focused.
Emailed, Twitter fed,
Faster and faster
Like the world in which we live.

So much news,
So many ideas,
So me!
Slices, so to speak, of my life! 

Lands' EndSunday's Breakfast Menu
Talbots - Classic clothing including petites and women's sizes, accessories, shoes and more.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

#Slice of Life 2013 #23 of 31 The Nice Little House

In one assessment of beginning reading, a house fills with animals as the storyline repeats, "The ...(fill in animal) went into the little house."  Then, the skunk does "what skunks do" and the animals leave.  The skunk, sarcastically says, "What a nice little house!"  After reading the story, the teacher asks the question, "At the end of the story, why did the skunk say this is a nice little house!"  Believe me, there are many ways to say "made a skunk smell!"

The other day, a first grader responded, "Somebody probably read him the title."  I must have looked a bit perplexed, so my student continued, "Just like you read it to me!"  It took me a second to recover from the clearly accurate and totally literal response, but my student was on top of the situation and proudly, without missing a beat, took control of the assessment situation and pointing to the title of the book and proudly reading, "See, it says right here on the cover, The Nice Little House."  

The skunk's sarcasim was lost to my first grader but her confidence made my day.  It indeed said, "The Nice Little House" and I should not have asked such a silly question.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

#SliceofLife2013 #22of31 Wise Words From my Favorite Doctor

Over on Julie Johnson's blog (on day 3?), I saw this image.  I saved it to my "quotes" file and have been thinking of  how it is a powerful metaphor for teaching, learning, and living.          

I thought of Geissel's quote:
When I was missed the Teacher's College Reunion,
I should know it "all" ?
When I discussed a lesson with a colleague,
A master teacher, she wanted to know what I thought?
She should know it all ?
When I signed up for a workshop or two,
On line, on Saturday, over vacation,
I won't get a raise, or in service credits,
I should know it all ?

I thought of his wisdom, today:
When I heard an idea I had forgotten!
When I heard a brand new idea.
I should know it all?
When a grad students wrote about professional sharing!
When I wrote, "Please remember to share with me!" 
I should know it all?

I thought of his prophecy
When my mother read another book in 2 days,
When she said, "It's the best I have ever read!"
She should have read it all?
When she squealed as I unpacked the bag of new books.

I think of his prophecy 
As I look longingly at the stack of books,
Waiting patiently to take me
Where my mother has been,
Where struggling readers thrive
Where I've forgotten the landscape
In the vacations days ahead
The more you know,
The more aware
You never know it all.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

#sliceof life 2013 #21 of 31 Imagine The Dogwood Tree

Imagine, you "work from home" because you have tree surgeons taking down some very old (over a hundred years old) and very large (over 70 feet tall) trees that were damaged in the hurricane and now lean over your neighbor's yard.   

The trucks arrive and a crew of Spidermen-like beings with ropes, cranes, chain saws, and devices for climbing take over your backyard.  You post on Twitter, "Let the tree-wars begin."  You're working, but it's hard not to watch them do what every child in the world wants to do at one point or another: climb trees effortlessly like a squirrel.  You take another picture and get back to work! 

You hear chain saws starting and stopping, starting and stopping, again, and again.  Finally, you realize the incessant sawing noises coming from the backyard have halted.  You get up to check on the progress assuming the first tree has come down, thinking these Spidermen are pros at what they do.

You quickly realize the entire crew is standing around looking up at the first tree, still standing in all its glory, still leaning over the neighbor's house just like it was before the Spidermen arrived. You decide it's time to head outside and ask the first Spiderman  you see, "What's happening?" just as you notice that three (3) chain saws are laying broken on your lawn.  You're wondering if the Spidermen are going to ask for another swipe of your credit card? 

The boss of the Spidermen comes to you, shaking his head.  "I've heard of this," he says in a bit of disbelief, "but in all my years on the job I have never seen this."  Imagine, you are standing there, still wondering about what "this" is as you watch the entire crew of Spidermen shaking their heads and talking excitedly!

Embedded image permalink"The concrete inside is killing our blades," the boss Spiderman says in a way that indicates he's a bit excited to see tree history but also thinking about additional charges.  You shake your head, what else can you do?  Then, you take another picture, for Twitter, of the concrete falling from the tree as its trunk is lifted out to become a piece of tree history. You can feel the credit card move in your wallet as the tree moves past.  

"What a day." you mutter as you head back to Google "concrete inside of trees" and find that back in the early years of the 20th Century, back when your house was a young-un and belonged to someone else, someone "saved" the trees from decay, squirrels and other varmits by filling them with concrete!  (As noted in the linked article, this is not something that is considered "best practice" in tree surgery today.) 

Over time, the trees grew, majestically shading children at play and families oblivious to what was hiding inside. The concrete, once near the base of the trees, had become one with the tree.  They had grown strong withstanding hurricanes, destroying chain saws, and surprising Spidermen.   "It's time for some landscaping," you mutter, grateful those trees stood the test of time, but looking forward to new lives, in a new century, safely under a new Dogwood tree.      

Colby Sharp on Valuing Student Choices in Texts

In case due to budget cuts, busy schedules, money, time, or energy limitation you are not headed to the IRA this weekend, you still need to hop over to read Colby Sharp's post.  I seriously do NOT know where he gets his energy but I do know there are some lucky children all over our country because he shares what works (and what doesn't) with the world. 

This post today is a powerful reminder of  the importance valuing the book choices our students make - even if they differ from our own!

#Slice of Life 2013 # 20 of 31 Nobody wants to write, talk, or even think about it

I have never written about this subject and I avoid talking about it. To be honest, nobody wants to write, read, talkor even think about it; so I understand if you just switch to another blog, right now.  However, I really feel the need to write about it today, sort of a PSA (public service announcement!)

It has the potential to alter the course of an illness that has changed the course of lives.  It's not a "walk in the park" (more like a wild ride over rapids) but it's powerful and it might save your life!  My first time, was shortly after my brother's diagnosis. He was strong and healthy, in the prime of his life, when he got the dreaded diagnosis.  Thanks to its search and seizure mission, I am teaching, learning, loving and writing this blog! 

Nobody wants to talk about,
Nobody wants to think about,
Nobody wants to do it,
Eat jello for a day?
Drink white grape juice?
(I seriously prefer fermented juice)
If your doctor says "it's time,"
Take a "day,"
Get a colonoscopy!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

#Slice of Life 2013 #19 0f 31The Germ X Massage

I must admit, I have never had a "professional" massage; however, I have been told, by those who have, that a mani-pedi (I have been there) is to a massage what a McDonald's playground is to Disney World!

Anyway, late one afternoon, I found myself talking to some students about de-stressing.  One student asked if I was talking about "yoga massage."   Faster than a speeding bullet, the student ran over to the Germ-X jug and faster than you can say "yoga" he was showing me how to massage fingers and palms to "relax" and slow down.  I must admit, it felt pretty relaxing, in a one-eye-always-on-the-students-wondering-what-is-coming-up-next-teacher-kind-of-way, but the drying effects of generous Germ-X on the palms has left my hands in a desert-like condition!
Yet, this whole experience makes me wonder about massage:
  • Is there any research on the use of massage as a means of  de-stressing with kids?
  • How do masseuses keep their hands moisturized?
Have YOU ever had a Germ-X palm-assage? 

Monday, March 18, 2013

#Slice of Life 2013 #18 of 31 Sumter, Winning, Sprummer?

I confess, I have this poster in my classroom and have used it to help students understand the seasons  but I am taking it down due to  Blurred Seasons.  Seriously, I think we need to rethink how we talk about seasons!   All of us...teachers, parents, and especially stores! Let me try to explain:

Wool sweaters, long puffy coats,
Lined pants, long sleeved tops,
The kids need back-to school clothes
It's 90 degrees outside
But it's winter in Target,
Perhaps we should call it Sumter?
Sleeveless dresses and shorts,
Lawnmowers, grills, lawn chairs
Soccer, lacrosse, and baseball bags are packed
Yet, sleet and freezing rain are forecast
The shovels are gone
It's spring in Home Depot,
Perhaps we should call it Winning?

The seasons have blurred
New words emerge,
Sumter, Winning, Sprummer, 
Summum, Faller, Falling?
I'll let tell Webster.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Test prep for Homework? I wish it wasn't so

Peter DeWill posted this and if you are a teacher, principal, parent or student, I really, really think you should read this.  I wish it wasn't happening....but it is....

Really? Test Prep for Homework!

His message is this: Don't get caught up in the insanity by making young children go home and practice test prep. It borders on educational malpractice.

#Slice of Life 2013 You Call Them Toys, We Call Them Tools

"Did you not have toys as a kid?," a neighbor asked my husband chidingly.   
My husband smiled and responded, "They're not toys, they're tools of the trade!"

Yet, my mind wandered to the many, many seasonally special toys that fill our garage, basement, and shed - even though our "kids," and most of their toys, have moved out of the nest.  Yes, he does have a lot of toys I reflected as I looked a the tractor, snow blower, and multiple shovels designs to make diverse snow conditions easier to remove. 

While others might see them as toys, my husband sees them as "tools"and prides himself on finding I and buying THE right tool get the job done.  We have scooping shovels, lifting shovels, pushing shovels and shovels without metal on the edge (to protect the tender surface of the stones on the sidewalk).  We have a snow blower and s tractor that plows and scoops.  And that is just the winter collection! 

The good news, for both of us, is that in the last few years, he really has become quite the cook!  You know what that means for our kitchen toy-tool collection!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

# Slice of Life 2103 Show Don't Tell: Soda Wars Edition

In the spirit of honesty, I do, on occasion, have soda.  I'll have "sugary" soda (something like Canada Dry Ginger Ale) when I am recovering from a gastrointestinal event. On an evening when I am unusually tired, I have also been known to consume an aspartame laden, caffeine infused, calcium depleting, calorie free soda (something really bad like Diet Dr. Pepper) in order to maintain some semblance of energy when I need to teach a couple of evening classes! 
 So, while I am not personally impacted by the NY City soda wars, I do have an educator's perspective on this!

A bit of history:  Mayor Bloomberg is trying to get a ban on sodas larger than 16 ounces in order to combat obesity.  "I’ve got to save lives,” the mayor said.  Too bad he didn't get the message that all of us who work with people got about constructivist teaching and learning
Parents, pastors, priests, rabbis, mentors, coaches, teachers, and at least some judges have known since the beginning of recorded history that we learn best when we "construct" our knowledge from stories and experiences that shape our thinking.  The Bible is full stories to "show" its ideas.  Coaches will be out there as soon as it is daylight this morning, showing youngsters how to catch and throw.  Most of us don't just watch a Lamaze video before giving birth; we practice under the guidance of someone who shows us!

Thus, Mayor Bloomberg, don't just tell your people that sodas contribute to obesity, show them how. (the research has already been done, see samples below!)  Use your hefty personal resources to start TV and subway campaigns showing how one super sized soda has the calories most of us need for a whole day! Add those sugar infused beverages that Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts serve to your list, please!  Don't just tell people to stop, show them why and then add some hefty taxes (money encourages reflection)! 

Through hearing about the risks, watching videos of lives shattered by obesity, paying huge taxes on huge drinks, and then reflecting on those experience, "your" people, Mr. Mayor, will most likely rethink consumption of super sized, super caloric beverages as they construct an understanding of what they want out of their own live!

Friday, March 15, 2013

#Slice of Life 2013 #15/31 The Power of a Good Hug

Not too long ago, I learned they sell "jackets" that help to make dogs feel secure!  My first reaction was , "Really?"   Yet, the more I think about this, the more I think it is a very good idea....less barking...less angst...and there might be more good ideas from this. 

I was thinking of secure feelings as I pulled the blankets right up to my neck the other night. I feet cozy and secure as I lapsed into sleep 

Then, today, someone I have not seen in quite some time, gave me a hug.  The nice warm hug of a friend who is glad to see you eyeball to eyeball.

I am pretty sure there is something connecting this....perhaps, it is the power in "security" jackets...a hug helps us all to feel secure!

SO, perhaps we need security jackets for colicky newborns - those of us who have been there remember the woeful cry alleviated only by holding the child close to your body.

Perhaps we need something like this for senior citizens who spend lonely days longing for the past, lost loves, lost parts of their lives.  Their sadness and angst is only alleviated by physical signs of caring. 

What about kids who are hesitant to try something new?  Could such a jacket end the first day of school tears? Could it help with homesickness at camp and college? 

I'm not just kidding about all this.....but I am thinking there is a booming business here!