Monday, July 28, 2014

#sol2014 Saving the World: One Cartridge at a Time

I guess I should have seen this one coming as my husband and I have been "saving" money and the environment even before it was socially "right" to do so.  I really got to thinking about some of our environmentally-conscious activities over the years as we refilled our laser cartridge the other day.  (So glad that was not my idea!)
  • There were the solar panels on the roof.  We rushed to get them done so we would have a supply of "free" hot water in which to wash diapers one summer! We had 20 years of "free" hot water - as long as the sun was out! 
  • We've "recycled" furniture, wood, curtains, clothes, toys. One time, my husband scoured the countryside looking for wheels for a Hot Wheel bike with plastic tires worn the to the rim.  For a year or more, that Knight Rider sported Berry Princess wheels!  
  • There were cloth diapers in our house back in the days before the trendy baby bums of today.  We used pins (omg!) to hold them together and rubber pants to keep them on!  Of course, to keep our babysitters,we only used them at home. 
  • We even had a clothesline, yep, and I schlepped the laundry outside to the line! Well, weather permitting, and usually just sheets and big stuff, in the summer (unless the dryer was broken!!
  • We grow our own veggies and share them (not so willingly) with our neighbors, the deer. 
  • We've driven a fleet of economy oriented cars including one that got (at times) 50 mpg! Yet, in true confession, we've had a few gas guzzlers along the way like that big ol' pick up truck!   
  • We turn off lights when we leave a room and we try to keep the house at 58-60 when we are home, during the winter. (We do turn the thermostat up for company, promise!)
  • We take our water and seltzer bottles back to Walmart even though two full bags and 15 minutes of work yields about $1.00 and returning them into the always broken machines raises your blood pressure to a dangerous level.
  • We carry our paper, cans, bottles and plastic down to the curb to recycle.  
  • We visit the Salvation Army at least once a year with gently worn (or too small) clothes.
  • I use plastic containers for lunch (most of the time) and bring my coffee in a reusable mug (most of the time).

This weekend, we tried something that probably is really good for the environment but really challenged us. We've bought "recycled" cartridges before but THIS TIME, WE refilled our laser cartridge ourselves! Seriously. It is a labor intensive process that makes everything else we have done seem reasonable! It was more work and took almost as long as those those solar panels! We were covered with soot from our heads to our feet.  There has got to be a better way to save the world from the onslaught of cartridge carcasses! Creative minds unite: I am thinking about some sort of a bento box for the printer?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Complaint Free Day!

During the summer, I catch morning TV shows (like Good Morning America, The Today Show, or even Rachel Ray) as a sort of summer-cultural-literacy-awareness project.  It provides insight into what people are talking about and what people are wearing! This summer, I've learned that dresses are tighter and shorter! I guess it can be safe to say that most of what I hear goes in one ear and out the other! Yet the other day, as I worked on a tea-staining-paper craft project, I caught a "life-style" clip that has "stuck" with me.  It was about a Happiness Project where people pledged to NOT COMPLAIN for three months!  YIKES, that is harder than my old Lenten promise to NOT TALK "BAD" ABOUT PEOPLE for 60 days!  

Here is how it works in the
Will Bowen, the promoter, seeks a day when people focus on what they desire rather than about complaining about how things are.  As a reminder, you wear a purple bracelet for inspiration to leave the toxic complaining behind and make an internal shift to being more hopeful and optimistic.

I must admit the timing of this "news" was timely.  I was complaining, to myself, that the summer was half over and I had not done "anything" (as in traveled to Europe, vacationed on the beach) yet!  Then, I hear there are physical and physiological changes in people who condition their thoughts to be more positive and less full of complaints!  

While I try to genuinely find the good in every situation, I do worry, complain and feel sorry for myself even when I do not "say" those thoughts out loud.  I've also been a teacher long enough to know that "we" teachers tend to complain "a lot."  

I am sure that it will take me a long, long while (perhaps until next summer), but I am going to make it a goal to go ONE WHOLE DAY focusing on what I desire and what is good rather than on complaints.  When I can make it through on day, I will try for does seem like something I should try in this second-half of my year when my OLW is JOY 
To be quiet honest, there really has been a bumper crop of JOY in my life this year....not that I don' have some complaints.....
Day 1......6:43 AM Saturday...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Words and phrases

Sometimes, at graduations, weddings, funerals, and even church services the words are lost in the drone of the message like in the old Charlie Brown cartoons when he goes, "Waaa. waaa, wa...." without hearing what is said.  Sometimes the words are more like a clanging gong banging but making no lasting impression.
Other times, the service strikes your heart and you take the words home.

This was the case for me last Sunday when the reminder was that we ALL need a few moments, now and then in solitude.  I smiled as I remembered locking the bathroom door when my own kids were little in order to get 3 minutes alone - even if it was not quiet.

This was also the case for me the other day when the advice for some newly weds was to remember some key phrases that make living and working together more effective.  The phrases were simple ones that we have been hearing since we were toddlers.

  • I love you
  • I'm sorry
  • I forgive you
While there was nothing "new" in the message, I reflected on the words in light of the many often conflicting aspects of life. As teachers, that is how we need to interact with our students (changing the I love you to I really like and care for you no matter how bad, cranky, or ornery you might be). As coworkers, managers and employees, these are good phrases to keep near our lips.  As parents and as partners, they really are the hallmark of living and working together.      

There was only one other phrase that I think you might want to add to the list.  It's the Golden Rule:
do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

That is why I will make the bed AND cook dinner, tonight!  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Which kids need us the most?

A month from now, a new crop of students will walk into crisply decorated classrooms everywhere.  Some of them will have read over the summer and others will have not picked up anything with printed text on it! .
Some will be dressed in new clothes and others in ragged hand-me-downs.
Some will be eager but many will be reluctant.
Some will have breakfast and others will be hungry.
Some will seek attention and others will want to hide.  
Dr. Maxwell, now Supt. in the district where I began my career, is right on with this quote.  Each of them needs us.  Even if they did not read, are wearing hand-me-downs, are hungry, reluctant and want to hide.  In fact, those kids who challenge us the most certainly need us the most! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Educator Collaborative

I've been SO VERY DEEP in my own writing project, I have barely been able to notice what is happening in the rest of the world.

I did log in to find out about Chris Lehman's big news!

The Educator Collaborative

What can you do the help shape the future of literacy education?

I suspect Donald Graves would be proud :) even though collaborating is not a new idea! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer Reading Suggestions

Ramona, one of my blogoshephere writing friends posted this GREAT list of book suggestions today.

I was talking to someone about book suggestions just the other day.....

Here are some great lists...

Some days, your writerly life merges with your real one!

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE a link to your post in the comments section. GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

I have been deep into my own sort of historical fiction writing project for the past few days (thanks in large part to TWT and Betsy's writing group idea)  and I really wouldn't have minded a few hours on the computer during what I suspected was to be a humid-thunder stormy Sunday afternoon. I didn't totally "poo-poo" the idea because a little part of me really wanted to go.....but I did mention the pending rain more than once! 
Anyway, 11 miles or so into our journey, we were crossing the Walkway Over the Hudson when the wind began to blow across the bridge in earnest.  Even the Ferreris, who watch very few movies, have seen the historical fiction movie version of the Titanic's's sinking where Kate Winslet stands of the bow of the boat as the wind whips as her dress.  She was distraught and Leonardo DiCaprio saves her from falling into the ocean.  
"You should take a picture of this for your Slice of Life,"  he said as he stood there on the bridge with his hands extended.  So, in our not so correct, but safer version, here are our reenactments of that scene from the movie.  

PS We had to take each other's pictures because asking someone else to recreate the actual image would have been just plain weird! 
PPS We did realize that the railing was in front of us and you can be sure no risks were taken in the remaking of this scene!  
PPPS  Sweaty in the near 100% humidity, it actually felt pretty good.  Perhaps Kate was just hot and sweaty that night on the ship?

Monday, July 14, 2014

What did women wear in the 1920's?

I am sure you really wanted to know!

Two Flappers -Photo – 1928 


In th

Teachers Write: Mary, Anna, Laura and Jo are right here with me

I'm writing this summer.
In fact, in the last week I think I might have written more than ever before in my life!
I'm also thinking, a lot, about what Judy Blume wrote in some autobiographical text I use almost every year, She said that when she is in the middle of a book, the characters are really at the dinner table with her! Pieces of the setting would start to appear in her window or perhaps in her mind.   I never really "got" what she meant until the end of last week, when fresh off some curriculum writing and full of the vim and vigor you feel when you accomplish something in spite of the odds, I really started to take my TWO summer writing groups seriously!
Rather than rewrite the same old stories again this summer, I took Kate Messinger's words to heart and started writing the story that really was churning inside me.  I decided not to worry about the parts of the story I did not know the answers to and decided to just put fingers to the keyboard.
Now, Mary, Anna, Lora and Jo are sitting right here in the office with me.  They are wearing house dresses and peeling potatoes but pretty soon Lora will head off to Normal School.  Pretty soon, they will all leave the farm.
Truth be told, some characters in this story are true, but others are figments of my mind.
Truth be told, some events are true and others are realistic, historical fiction.
Truth be told, the setting, the 1920's were a pretty interesting time and I've spent quite a bit of energy thinking about them due to another project that will launch this winter! (It's pretty neat when the pieces of you life fit together, even if only for a moment in time!)
So when the link below popped into my browser this morning, I gasped softly and then went right back to writing.  

When some day (in my dreams) I am writing my own story about my own writing for kids, I will have to share with them that it really is pretty neat when the project you are working on pops into your browser.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Balanced Literacy is a Lot of Work

If you live near NYC, you've heard of Carmen Farina, the head of NYC Public schools.  She is a proponent of Balanced Literacy and is insisting that teachers focus on teaching kids to be readers and writers rather than just literacy as a test prep genre! 

I share Farina's passion for teaching that balances skills and practice.  I share her passion for preparing students to be life-long readers and writers who find reading comforting, empowering and informative.  

Yet, I worry that Balanced Literacy is a LOT of work and takes a LOT of prep during every single one of the 180 days of school.  The secret is right in the name: balance: shared reading, shared writing, interactive writing, word study, interactive read-aloud, working independently, working in whole-class settings, thoughtful mini-lessons, conferring, and small groups are part of every single week - all year through. 

Like many other teachers, I believe balanced literacy is best - even for the kids who have limited literacy experience, smaller vocabularies, and less focus. I know that balanced literacy is also more work than any scripted unit of study could imagine.  I worry that we might end up doing scripted programs rather than empowering learners.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

SOL 2014 Finding Joy In Summer

Do you remember back in the winter when we were all talking about the cold, ice and snow?  Some of us (perhaps even me) promised to embrace the wonders of summer (including the heat) and not complain even if we became uncomfortable!  SO, I am not complaining; however, I'm working to find joy (my OLW for 2014) in our recent weather!
  • This week, alone, I found myself awake in the middle of the night as the humidity climbed towards a perfect score!  I must admit, however, that an Italian ice at 3 AM is a guilty pleasure I could learn to love!
  • We've had storms so strong they ripped the flag and made short shift of the old porch chairs.  Yet, when they passed, we were able to dry off the table and eat outside basking in incredible sunsets.  
  • We've had drenching rains, the kind that causes rooms to flood and carpets to be ruined.  My Aunt has had to vacate her bedroom and move to higher ground; however, we did get her carpet cleaned so something good came out of it all!
  • We've had temps that have climbed towards the century mark; yet, my new car has one powerful air conditioner!   
  • The mosquitoes are hatching and the bugs multiplying; however, the Citronella candles have already been marked down to half off.  So, it's hard to complain! 
  • The snow peas, lettuce and garlic scapes are taking over the fridge; however, the joy of picking and eating them never gets old.  
  • The lawn is growing like the weed it is; yet, the exercise is good for us!
  • Last, but not least, for teachers and kids at least, there is less work and more fun than is possible when you are awaiting that early morning alarm or message!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Matt Renwick and Reading Assessments

Matt Renwick posted on the Nerdy Book Club this morning and it's a post you should read and think about because HE is questioning what I do for a living, yet I totally agree!

Matt proposes READING REALLY SHOULDN'T be quantified!  He says, "reading is not a skill that finds its foundation in numeracy," and I can imagine Marie Clay nodding in agreement.  Her running records were created to describe not quantify readers! Yet he acknowledges that assessment of learning, including its quantification, is not, and should not be going away!  So, what we need to do is to consider how we can collect powerful PERFORMANCE data to describe our readers beyond the numbers.  Matt suggests surveys, discussions, images, videos and audios will complete the picture.   I agree.  Those numbers or letters we get are just guidelines that do not tell us how to make readers stronger and motivated.  That data does exist, however, in lives the connections we make to our readers not in their numbers.   

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

During the toughest of times, just breathe

I was folding laundry late in the day when the clear sound of something awry,"THWAP," urged me to check it out.  "I bet its that screen door," I thought as I went to investigate, my arms laden with laundry.   Yet the screen door was shut, so I continued with chores until during one trip up and down the stairs, I realized that my husband was holding a shovel and staring at what appeared to be a small, gray-deader-than-a-doorknob bird on our patio! "He must have flown into the house," my husband said quietly, "but he is not dead!!  I looked closely, through the screen and indeed he was breathing. slowly. I must admit I found myself thinking of my father who loved to watch the birds tease the squirrels from his kitchen window.

Assuming nature would take her course, we ate dinner and did a few more chores before checking on our guest, who was was still lying there, breathing slowly but regularly.  I must admit I found myself remembering those long summer evenings, not so long ago, watching my father lying on his side breathing slowly and wondering if each one would be his last.

In the morning, the first thing we both checked was Birdie who amazingly had survived the perils of the night and was sitting up!  "He must have had the wind knocked out of his sails," my husband muttered, "but I'm guessing he'll be breakfast for the cats if he sits there long!"  We watched him slowly hop short distances and occasionally attempt to flutter his wings.  We left slid water through the screen door and left bread crumbs nearby.  He seemed unconcerned with our presence and phone-photos.  He appeared rather consumed with his recovery as he hopped around the patio, slowly but surely defying nature. We watched him, from afar, and cheered his progress still wondering how he would ever defy the forces of nature stacked against him.  Yet in due time, he quietly flapped his wings, slowly, and like a tiny 747, without looking back, he flew away. I smiled and celebrated his miraculous recovery. I must admit I found myself thinking of my father's perseverance through adversity, even when others had "thrown in the shovel" as I watched him fly into the woods. I wonder if the Central Message is this: During the really tough days, just breathe?