Monday, September 30, 2013

Close Reading: Sharing a Great Post

Fuzzy .......but Fortunate

I am very grateful for TWT who provide a forum for me to reflect on the Slices of my life.  The Slices would be there even if I didn't write.  Thanks to TWT, I feel compelled to reflect and to write.

I was looking at the road ahead and reflecting on months of physical therapy at home after months in  rehab. I was thinking about caregiving and reflecting on Peapod (home delivery of food)!  I was thinking about nurses and phlebotomists who go into homes. 

I was trying to describe all she had accomplished (learning to walk, albeit slowly, again, learning to get up and down from a chair, albeit slowly, again, coming home, albeit with difficulty) but keenly aware that life, for all of us, was very different, now.

Today, like most days now, I stop by to check on her caregivers, therapies, and medications.
Today, like most days now, she had a distant look in her eyes, as if her mind had drifted elsewhere.   Today, like most days now, she was quiet, engaging less in conversations.
Today, like most days now, it doesn't matter if the Yankees win or lose.
Today, like most days, my monologue garnered only smiles. 

"I don't think I'll ever be like I was before I fell," she noted sadly, not looking at me, but off into the distance.  "It's all fuzzy now," she said,  "I'm fuzzy all the time! I just can't figure it out.  It's like I'm not all here.  I don't finish the crosswords.  I can't stay awake.  Maybe they took a part of my brain out when they fixed my hip?" she chuckled. 

We both laughed.  I was grateful that her wit and the ability to deliver a powerful one-liner returned, even if only for a moment.  I finished doing pills.  I picked up the Peabpod, Medco and orders.  I assured the caregivers I'd be back and reminded them to call if they needed me.

"I'm fuzzy," she said after a long silence, "but I'm fortunate."

I wondered if she felt fortunate because she was home, in her familiar surroundings or if she felt fortunate that I was managing her bills, now.  I wondered if she felt fortunate because she had caregivers who cared.  Yet, I knew enough not to ask right then as she stared at the blank TV screen, the empty stare of someone who was indeed fuzzy, once again. 

I knew that I was fortunate, too.  As I implored lots of CCD students (in their Confirmation classes) to do, I was using my own "gifts" to help others. That afternoon, as the sun set, in the moments before her bedtime and my trip home for dinner, we had a moment when the fuzziness receded and good fortune prevailed. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Redshirting Isn't Just for Sports...but Does It Work?

Caring, Sharing, and Giving Back

Yesterday it was HOT and SUNNY as I sat on the sidelines watching a team with both the familiar yellow Igloo coolers and an incredible super professional mister whoop up on my team!  I really wasn't sure, at first, what I saw over on the other side of the super-turf field behind those yellow coolers and the players in professional looking uniforms. 

Initially, I thought it was some sort of giant spray bottle that some overzealous team trainer was spraying.  Later, I realized that it was likely  the same device that Texas professional football teams use to keep cool in the hot Southwest sun! 

Aquality's Sports Sideline Cooling SystemsInitially, I thought this community must have some super duper taxes and while I could never afford to live there, I sure was glad they took such good care or their kids.  Later, thanks to someone who knows more sports trivia than anyone should ever know, such as who went to what college and who has the most ups and downs, I found that a former student had provided it all.

Initially, I thought, "Gee this isn't fair.  Why didn't you get us a mister?"  Later, as I lay in bed slathered with aloe to take pain of the day away, I thought about Ray, who I will likely never meet, yet may well serve as a model of caring, sharing, and giving!

Today, I did a quick search of the internet and found that while he certainly earns a generous salary, like most in professional sports, he has also given very generously to both his hometown and to the town where he works and lives now.  In fact, I am pretty sure that he is a lot more like me than I could have ever imagined, except that my salary, as a public school teacher is a whole lot less!  In fact, I suspect he is a lot more like all of the coaches on the field and all parents in the stands than I could have every imagined! 

I found Ray's quote this morning.  I could have said it many times as I watched my own children grow into young adults while caring, sharing and giving as my best.  I could have said it many times as I coached newbie teachers over the gauntlet of a challenging career, caring, sharing and giving back.  I could have said it many times in my teaching career as I coached reluctant readers and struggling learners, caring for them, sharing books and giving them lots of support. 

The coaches, who stood stoically on the hot sidelines all afternoon and who, then, rode home on a hot yellow school bus with grimy, smelly, exhausted and defeated young men likely said it as they climbed onto that bus knowing the road ahead would include caring, sharing and rebuilding bodies and spirits.   

I’d do anything for those kids. Any time I get a chance to help them out I’m going to do it. I like when people work hard. I like to see hard work pay off.”

PS. Thanks to Ray Rice but also to ALL those coaches, parents and fans who give of themselves with all the gifts they are endowed each and every weekend too!    

Saturday, September 28, 2013

We are all more than the numbers that describe us!

This weekend, nearly half a year later, the results of last May's testing of students in grades 3-8 will come home to parents.  They'll be opening the envelopes all over the state with hearts pounding, hoping that their child will be one of the lucky ones who "passes" the test. 

I got my own grade, based largely on the results of students' scores recently and so I think I know just how many of them will be feeling!

Here's what might happen!  You know you (or your child) is working hard and all the feedback from your administrator (or teacher) is really positive and good.  Then you look at the numbers and you think, "Oh my. This is not good enough.  I know I am better than this number," or "Oh my. This is not good enough.  I know my child is better than this number."  For a few days, it stings and you question and you wonder and you make a plan to read more about the CCSS, assessment protocols, learning in the 21st Century and to do better OR for a few days it stings and you question yourself, last year's teacher's efficacy, and you make a plan to keep closer tabs on this year's teacher, your child's reading, the TV, movies, and college plans.

Then, a couple of days later, you talk to a former student's mom in Barnes and Noble.  She says that little Jimmy is begging her for more books about swamps, alligators, frogs...and thanks you profusely for planting the seeds for learning in his soul and while walking out of the store, you see more former students heading into B&N asking you for book suggestions OR a few day later, you are talking to your child at bedtime and they describe their intense desire to learn more about the War of 1812 and biodiversity and worms.  They ask to go to a museum or to have time to read on the weekend and your heart fills with joy once again.  They beg for a few more minutes of reading before they turn out the light.  You oblige.

Over time, the numbers start to be put into some sort of perspective.  You do need to talk about them...and think about how you can be the best you can be.  You reflect how you can do better.  You read more, you talk to your child more, you even go to a workshop on the Common Core! Over time, your heart stops beating so fast and you start putting those numbers into a proper prespective. 

 So when you open that envelope,
  • Remember that "The number of New York students passing dropped drastically, and that based on these standards, only 26 percent of students passed their ELAs." 
  • Remember that parents and teachers everywhere are working hard to fuel the fires of lifelong learning. 
  • Remember that teachers are working hard to assure their instruction aligns with new standards and students are learning new strategies for responding and demonstrating their understanding.
  • Remember that numbers, like name calling, can hurt.
  • Remember that the numbers on the scale, the numbers on the odometer, the numbers on the speedometer, and the numbers on the state tests, are all best understood and analyzed in relation to the many other surrounding factors. 


Monday, September 23, 2013

If you write down the stories, we'll remember them.

This is Wilbert the Worm of Wormville who was found living in a soft patch of soil near a carrot patch.  As you might already know, he is soft and smooth.  Amazingly, he was also the source of an afternoon of intense observation in his school-house flower pot (on the right of his teacher).

He is also the main character in a series of bedtime stories, The Adventures of Wilbert.  He is a wise and wonderful worm who leads his cousins in some pretty strange underground and above ground adventures!  In a recent episode, his wisdom and patience were celebrated by worms from miles away when finally, after months of waiting and rerouting around the growing orange carrot barriers, the ground opened up softer, moister, and more filled with air than anyone could ever remember! Finally, exercise, food, exploration, and visits from friends were possible and Wilbert, who advocated for patience rather than a revolution, was the hero!

While I could regale you with wise words from Wilbert, the real wisdom came from Grace, a brave worm finder and experienced book reader.  As she snuggled down for, I suspect, Wilbert-filled dreams she said sleepily, " I have an idea. If you write down the stories, we'll remember them."

Yes, Grace, that's why we write. 

PS. You too can make your own "poster" on Quozio. (thanks Amy and Michelle for the link)
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Saturday, September 21, 2013

GEICO Hump Day Camel Commercial - Happier than a Camel on Wednesday

I don't watch a lot of TV....but I do love this commercial! 

Preparing For Lives We Cannot Yet Envision

This morning, I am thinking of windsurfing and coaching,  I have never done, and likely never will do either; yet, I suspect I have many of the "tools" to do either if I so desired!

Here's how it started.  I was lying in bed, thinking about my kids, off to a weekend wind surfing school and channeling adolescent energy into a cohesive team.  I lay there thinking that I never envisioned their lives in quite wonderful way they are unfolding.  In fact, if truth be told, I could only envision THEIR lives through the lens of my own. 

While it may indeed be the goal of parents and teachers to assure our children have the skills and tools they need in order to be college and career ready (CCSS), the bigger mission for all of us is to assure our children are ready for lives we cannot yet envision.  It's a bigger mission than I ever could have imagined! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

#SOL2013 Wishing you caring, sharing, loving

After a wonderful day spent with my own family in celebration of life, I caught a glimpse of an incredible Manhattan evening, Kleinfeld gown, many bridesmaids, bells and whistles kind of wedding. I was in a reflective mood so I thought long and hard before I tried to write something witty and wise on social media.
  • I thought of a newspaper article about a couple married for a long time. 
  • I thought of an image coined by a crafty blogger who has been through a lot yet chooses joy 
  • I thought of a long, winding road of figuring out how to be us while holding onto me, learning to cheer rather than be cheered, learning to be excited when exhausted.
  • I remembered wonderful, challenging days of growing a family, with pets, or with children, though sharing nieces and nephews. 
  • I pondered the soccer games and family responsibilities amidst the demands of careers and bosses who only vaguely remembered strep throats! 
  • I remembered forgotten anniversaries, Valentines' Days, birthdays and vacation days, those times when little things became huge fights filled with, "You never," or "Why do I always."
  • I wondered if they know happiness is not depended on the actions of others and that our careers, our actions, and even our faith cannot be fully shared. 
  • I reflected on the frustration that comes from balancing many intersecting identities and times filled with controlling rather than accepting, reacting rather than forgiving.
  • I pondered the times I wanted to run away, give it up, do it on my own and the profound joy of thinking "we made it after all."
  • I wondered if they would choose to be happy, filled with joy for what they have or become despondent, filled with what might have been.   
  • I thought of parables focused on hope, prayer, forgiveness, patience, and flexibility. 
  • I prayed their faith would bring comfort and grow exponentially and that their love, but a tiny grain of sand yet, would become a wide, safe beach from the ocean waves of life.  
  • I hoped they would realize that "perfect" is not possible in weddings, homes, marriages, life.
  • On a nearby scrap I penned, May your lives be filled with more happiness than sadness, more hope than despair, more forgiveness than self-centeredness, more love than hate.     
  • It didn't seem romantic, or flowery, or eloquent even if it was parallel construction with a poetic edge. 
  • So instead, I wrote, "Wishing you a lifetime of caring, sharing and loving," just like on a Hallmark card.  It was simple with parallel construction.  I hope some day, they know what I meant.    

Sunday, September 15, 2013

That First Week of School

During the first weeks of school,
Those of us who are special (teachers),
Do bus duty every day,
Tending to the lost souls,
Caring for the teary-eyed ones,
Helping those who have lost their way,
Or want to explore the school
And sometimes
Reflecting on the sights and sounds around us.
Here are mine from the first full week of school:

On Monday, of the first full week of school, they arrived (children and teachers) looking a bit apprehensive about what was ahead, but happy and bright eyed, ready to go.  There were smiles, and a few tears, amidst the backpacks filled with more potential than stuff.  Teachers, more often than not, were dressed in their best new garb, stylish shoes, and coiffed dos.  The air was ripe with the potential of the week ahead.

On Tuesday, they arrived a bit disheveled, and there were more tears as the youngest realized this going to school thing would be an every day event! There were some really tired looking faces (on both the teachers and children) as they all seemed to ponder about the need for five day school weeks.  The backpacks seemed heavier and filled with more books than before. They all wore shoes that were flatter and a bit less flattering!  
On Wednesday, the temperature and humidity were rising and they all arrived apprehensively, wondering if they would even make it through "hump day."   
On Thursday, the quieter crowd of zombie-looking teachers and students shuffled into the building looking like they were returning to the battle field.  They talked only of fans, air conditioning, and their water bottles.  They all walked a little slower, a bit more gingerly.
On Friday, the crowd was subdued and clearly exhausted.  They moved very slowly and very quietly through the hallways towards their destinations.  Many wondered if they could make it through the day?  They all wore shoes that were practical and comfortable.  Rather than carefully packed lunches and snacks conceived on Pinterest, they would eat whatever could be thrown into a bag quickly. They all carried packs laden with the hard and heavy work of learning.  
On Saturday, the hallways were so quiet you could hear a pin drop; yet outside, the soccer fields buzzed with excitement.  Amazingly, the parents and students talked about: school.  They compared teachers and pondered the new math homework.  They talked excitedly about being back in school.
On Sunday, even before the sun had risen in the sky, the teachers were busy in their homes planning for the week ahead.  They determined what was necessary and worthwhile and what could be dropped if "in the moment" learning happened.  They revised their initial seating charts, redid their tentative lesson plans based on formative assessments, reworked their home schedules, returned the dishes to the closets, remade the beds, repaired their clothes and relaxed their aching feet as they readied for the week ahead.  Throughout their own busy weekends, the teachers were thinking of those bright eyed children who would arrive the next day, looking a bit apprehensive about what was ahead, but eager and ready to go! 

Closer Reading Links

Cybrary Man posted this pretty nice list of CLOSE READING links:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Encore, Encore

At the end of a good show, there is an encore or two or three. The crowd, a bit sad that the show is over, begs for more.  The stars come back for a bit and show us what they do!  Sometimes, it's an old favorite and other times, it is a brand new song!

Those of us who are lucky enough to live long, full, and relatively healthy lives, will be lucky enough to have many encores during those lives. As soon as we get good and comfortable learning how to work with others in kindergarten, they send us to first grade to begin a new chapter. Then, when we master elementary school, they raise the bar again. When we finally get comfortable with life in high school, it's time to morph into college beings and when we finally master that, they send us to work. 

We morph from swinging singles, to comfortable couples, to full family life, to empty nesters as the seasons of life fly past like the rush of the wind.  We change jobs to adapt to new desires or our family's needs.  We change where we work by choice and by demand.  We take on encore jobs that we never even knew existed.  We add new hobbies, new crafts, new activities.

We may indeed have a moment (or a time) or two of sadness that the first "show" is over, especially if the show was a good one; however, we pick up the pieces, go in a new direction, and start singing a new, encore, song, if we are lucky. 

So it is during this season. Someone graduated from nursery school and is starting kindergarten, others graduated from high school and are starting college. Someone went back to their old school and picked up the pieces while others started a new school.  Someone is thinking about a new job and others are opening to changes in their lives.  Someone is starting a new job and others are starting new hobbies. Someone is thinking of downsizing and others are thinking of new homes and changing families. Someone "retired" and went back to school.  Those of us who are lucky enough, have many, many encores as the seasons of life, and our own show, changes.   

Encore, encore (and hang on tight 'cause some parts of the ride can be scary!)  

Monday, September 9, 2013

#SOL2013 Moving the Dust

"They only move the dust around so they don't really do anything," my mom assured me when I begged for what I thought was a modern age duster, as seen on the Jetsons cartoon.  "You'll get rid of the dust with this, " my mom proclaimed as she placed an old undershirt in my hand.  I really did yearn for a feather duster like the ones I saw used by fictional maids on TV and so, someday, I thought, I will make dusting fun with one of those! Yet, for most of my life, my mom's proclamation remained my mantra and I used old pillow cases, or in recent years, microfiber cloths, to chase the dust away.

Recently, my son, a seasonal teacher-window-washer, left a feather duster at my house.  He claimed he bought it to "do" blinds but he really didn't ever use it, so I should keep it.  I remembered my mother's words, "It'll only move the dust around" as I fingered my feathery soft duster, but I did not verbalize them.   

What an invention!  It certainly does move that dust around and it may in fact be back in place; however, I feel a little more elegant, even though I have neither a maid nor a robot, as I move that dust around happily humming that ol' Jetson's theme song!


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Read, Write, Reflect: From the Mouths of Babes

Read, Write, Reflect: From the Mouths of Babes: Last night was our first home football game of the season. I love football games. Love the cheering under the lights,...

A Sandy Hook Parent's Letter to Teachers

A Sandy Hook Parent's Letter to Teachers

One of these things is not like the other: Notebooks with pictures: hmmm

You might remember the song from Sesame Street.. 
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Recently, one of my kids posted this photo of a mostly likely mutant ear of corn waiting patiently, alongside its tall and perfect friend and its a little bit chubby but more normal neighbor.  The pic certainly put a smile on my face because, frankly, it was a glimpse of their daily life!  (moms are like that
But later, the teacher in me, the one reflecting on making all our children college and career ready, the one thinking about making learning meaningful and real for all kids, the one thinking about using photos to spur thinking in all of our writing notebooks could not let the picture slip quietly into cyberspace!
I was thinking about all the writing this single photo might spur...
Perhaps a story about three children: one tall, perfect, one short, squat, one with special needs..
Perhaps a story about how the corn in the field talked to each other and compared their looks..
Perhaps a story about how corn grows (need some research for this informational text)..
Perhaps a story about how these ears of corn travel to Sesame Street and get on TV..
The uptake on all this thinking is this:
We really should consider having kids bring in pictures of their adventures including the unusual things they notice and see in their daily lives.  I am thinking of this as a yearlong project of collecting ideas visually - not just decorating our writers notebooks!  While our writers' notebooks filled with jots and thoughts and ideas are the fuel of our writing, in the 21st Century, it might just be time to add more pictures and more visual images, including newspaper clippings, to our notebooks to fuel those memories and merge the very visual world of our youth with the writing world where we want them to live and grow. 
So, remember when you post a photo,
Of a mutant ear of corn,
It might spur memories of times long ago,
Or reflection from which an idea is born!  



CCSS and ELLS and Drama

Cover image for Vol. 67 Issue 1
The Common Core encourages drama and plays; this article in the newest RT describes a very interesting project. As a HUGE fan of Readers' Theater (my students and my grad students would both agree with this statement), I think this my have merit for ELLs and non-ELLs alike!

Check it out!  

(Abstract) This article presents an arts integration program that uses drama and dance to promote foundational literacy skills, with an emphasis on the oral development of English Language Learners (ELLs). Previous research indicates that arts activities afford a beneficial opportunity for young students to practice language skills, but many teachers have received scant training in the arts. The Teaching Artist Project (TAP) is a professional development program that helps classroom teachers use dramatization and creative movement to enhance comprehension and promote verbal interaction in the classroom. Children learn to imaginatively connect the decontextualized vocabulary of the classroom with their own experiences. A mixed methods study of TAP found that K-1 ELLs who participated in TAP showed improvements in early literacy skills compared with their peers. This article introduces approaches used in TAP, suggests sources of the language gains, and discusses strategies for successful implementation.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sharing a Ralph Fletcher Post ABOUT MALE writers

                                       Bringing The Boys Into Your Writing Community
                                                    Sharing a post by Ralph Fletcher

There are great suggestions here

about embracing the boys in your writing community.

This post is a must read, even if you work in an all girl school today!

Great Idea: Wishes and Dreams

A fellow blogger and master teacher commented on my post about wishes and dreams yesterday. When I hopped over to her blog this morning, I found that she had already not only been thinking along the same line, she had created an wonderful way to integrate thinking, poetry and art at the beginning of the year.

She used the poem, "On the other side of the door." which I found on this blog
by Jeff Moss.

On the Other Side of the Door

On the other side of the door
I can be a different me,
As smart and as brave, as funny or strong
As a person could want to be.
There's nothing too hard for me to do,
There's no place I can't explore
Because everything can happen
On the other side of the door.

On the other side of the door
I don't have to go alone.
If you come, too, we can sail tall ships
And fly where the wind has flown.
And wherever we go, it is almost sure
We'll find what we are looking for
Because everything can happen
On the other side of the door.

-Jeff Moss

And then she made this

which opened to her wishes and dreams  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A dream is a wish .....

Of late, I'm dependent on Spotify for music on the treadmill as my MP3 player is a gonner!  Now, I could seek a pity-party because I walk without Tina T. or J. Lo., but there is something interesting about listening to random music in the morning!  This was the first song this morning.  

  A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you're fast asleep
In dreams you lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling thru
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
the dream that you wish will come true.....
I'm sure it has been out of my lineup for a long time, but the words were still ringing in my head as I exited the treadmill.  Dreams...hopes and dreams....yes we all have them....
It is said, by many, that some of the messages in Cinderella are a "demeaning" to women of the 21st Century.  Certainly, none of us should wait for a prince to take us away or make us happy.  We might in fact like to hang out with a "toad" or with other "princesses"!  Certainly, none of us should sit and wait patiently for our dreams to come true.  We are the drivers of our own carriages and paddle our own canoes.  Certainly, none of us are totally dependent on others for happiness.  We find and make our own happiness no matter where we are and what we are doing.
Yet, as I exited the morning treadmill, my mind was filled with hopes and dreams.  Some were certainly superficial, such as my dream for the cobwebs to disappear or for a sunshiny weather.  Other hopes and dreams were more personal, happiness, jobs, time, love for family members and friends.  However, other hopes and dreams were much bigger and elusive, such as peaceful coexistence in our world. 
While the Old Witch in me knows that not all our wishes can come true and the old feminist in me says that we must make sure our girls have models of strong women determining their own destiny, there is still something about having hopes and dreams that is important to the search for happiness in our "real" lives.  

What if You Only Had 5 Minutes to Inspire a Student?

What if You Only Had 5 Minutes to Inspire a Student?

Peter DeWitt's post on Edweek is about Mark Barnes's The Five-Minute Teacher.  The whole post is certainly worth your read but this little one might just be a notebook keeper! 

"Highly motivated students may be better equipped to listen to lengthy lectues and 30-minute lessons, but they'll learn the material equally well, and perhaps better, if they investigate the content after instruction that lasts five minutes or less. Reluctant learners are prone to become disruptive as soon as a lesson surpasses the 300-second mark. In fact, you'll probably lose them much faster if you don't engage them immediately."

Assessing, Respecting, Encouraging

During these early days of the school year, we all spend a great deal of time getting to know our students.  We are busy assessing what they know and what they can do across many subjects areas.  We do so that we can differentiate our instruction, focus our teaching, and respect what students already know!  We also assess so that our administrators and parents can quantify what we have taught, but that is a post for another day!

As I was listening to students read and watching them write yesterday, I was thinking about the impact of every word out of my mouth before, during and after the assessment.  Peter Johnston was standing right there beside me (not really :), but certainly his words were ringing in my head) as I greeted new students telling them al little about me and eagerly welcoming them to my school.  I welcomed back 'old' students eagerly hearing about their summer adventures at the town camp or in Cancun.  I greeted each one with a smile and embraced wherever they had been before and whatever they had done during the summer.  I tried to make sure they knew what we would be doing, as far as this intake assessment was concerned, and why we were doing it!

As I was assessing and thinking about all the assessment our students will face in these early days, a few guidelines kept popping into my head.  It is critically important that our assessing respects the diverse needs and differences in our students.  It is also important that our assessments encourage rather than discourage or raise the angst in our students; so, I made a poster (see below)!  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

#SOL 2013 To Nest or to Labor, That is the Question!

Labor Day has traditionally been a day of "nesting" for me.  I (for some strange reason) need to clean out the Tupperware (Rubbermaid) drawer (it is now perfect) and vacuum out the laundry room.  All summer long, those jobs evade me, but as the days get sorter and the reality of parent-teacher nights sets in, the urge to clean these random places seems to overcome me.  There is something comforting about getting that laundry (almost) caught up and something empowering about cleaning up the piles near the door. 

"Can you help me pick up some 18 footers from the Depot?" he asked when I stopped the vacuum yesterday afternoon.  "You could stop and get some lettuce for your salad tomorrow and we could get a nice piece of fish for dinner on the way?"

How could I say I have laundry to "iron" when in reality I would not likely wear any of those clothes during this micro-short 2-day school week?   How could I say I have laundry to "iron" when in reality those clothes had been waiting for someone to iron them since June?  How could I get on my soapbox and say, "No one should have to work on Labor Day," knowing full well that those who were working were likely to be getting double time and were thrilled to be making all that extra money!

So we circled by our local veggie store, in search of some lettuce, and fortunately, for me, it was closed.  I didn't have to feel "sorry" for the people who had to work on the holiday and who could not be home "nesting"! I suspect, however, that Adams was the only place in the world closed for the holiday!  There were lots of cars and people at the Depot where everyone was really nice and helpful! 

Perhaps, it was because they were happy to be laboring, making money, and were not one bit concerned with nesting?
Perhaps it was because they had already nested and were now laboring while looking for ward to enjoying the "fruits" (aka $$$) of their labors?
Perhaps, this cleaning (nesting) frenzy is just the teacher in me preparing for my own "labor"?

To nest or to labor on Labor Day?
I guess it's a question, rather than a statement! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

#CloseReading Blog-a-thon: What I'm Thinking About This!

close reading button

I've been thinking a lot about "close reading" lately, even before Chris and Kate started this Blog-a-thon and even before I ordered their new book! 
I've been thinking a lot about where and when we read widely, across genre, topics, and authors. 
I've been thinking about where and when we read wildly, with rapt attention and focus on ingesting the topic or becoming one with the author and setting. 
I've also been thinking a lot about where and when we read deeply, with close focus and attention to the text, sometimes for a specific purpose but other times because the genre, topic, or our own passion for the subject takes over and demands we look more deeply. 

My own hypothesis (impression, thought) is that there are (and should be) times when we focus on stretching our reading to areas where we have not spent a lot of reading.  For me, that might be spending some time on the sports page in order to converse with others or it might be reading a popular mystery text, such as the Diary of a Wimpy Kid!  That type of reading is not really all that close or deep and my purposes are not to know everything about A-rod or which HS football team is going to have the best defensive line!  I only want to know enough to converse! 

I also propose there are times when we can (and should) read with wild abandon, such as when I get involved with a novel's characters or when a book calls me to become one with it!   I've been known to spend the night with Nicholas Sparks and that is OK even if I am not reading closely!  I escape into the book and while tired the next day, I have had a chance to leave my own world for another, for at least a moment in time.

Much, but certainly not all, of what we do in schools is closer, deeper reading for the purposes of discussion, response, or learning new things.  It's an area where we have expected kids to go without always modeling or focusing on how we get there!

I agree with Chris Lehman who says that we need to "help students observe, interact, and find their own questions and interpretations" as they read closely for many different school purposes.

I also agree with Kylene Beers and Bob Probst’s statement that  close reading involves rereading of short portions of a text with intensity.  You cannot read everything intensely and thus readers need to be able to quickly figure out what is most important and why!

I really like this definition: Close reading is when a reader independently stops at moments in a text (or media or life) to reread and observe the choices an author has made. He or she reflects on those observations to reach for new understandings that can color the way the rest of the book is read (or song heard or life lived) and thought about.

I'm also really grateful for this online PLN that I often read widely or wildly but sometimes, like today, I read closely!


You Only Get One "First Day of School" | Edutopia

One of this morning' read, You Only Get One "First Day of School" | Edutopia, was a good one for this rainy at the beginning of the year kind of day!

Whether you are sending your first to Kindergarten or headed back for your 40th year of teaching, it's a good reminder that we are all getting one fresh stab at getting things "right" or at least "better!"

While so often we think of what we are wearing and what our rooms and children look like, the reminder is that other aspects of the first day are just as important!

                                 As for me, I plan to SMILE more and worry less this year.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

PLN: Ipads

I am looking forward to integrating more "hands on for kids" technology into my literacy support program this year.  I took a summer week of training and learned lots; however, it is through my PLN that I continue to be an every-day-all-year-long-learner! Just reading this post makes me feel like I went to the Distinguished Educator Institute yesterday!