Friday, December 30, 2016

Great Books For Middle Grade Readers

Although my recent teaching focus has been with "beginning" readers, that has not always been the case! I have not only a "soft spot" but also "excitement" for the world of "middle grade" readers. Those are the years when "readers" really begin to read for their own enjoyment.  Those are the years before the "pressures" of HS and AP English classes can "force"so much reading that at least for a few years, there is little time or energy to read for fun!

So it is was with GREAT excitement that after spending a morning laying in bed reading and an afternoon with my "own" middle grade reader, I found my "virtual" professional friend Michelle Knott's list of GREAT middle grades books for 2016 on my Twitter feed..

So, Grace, this list is for YOU, your friends, and for all the other middle grade readers, their parents and their teachers.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

He Won the Battle, I Guess

'Twas five days into a long-awaited
Winter break for teachers, students of all ages,
I found myself snuggled, on the couch,
Next to a carefully decorated tree,
Turning virtual pages,

Of yet another long-coveted,
When a noise outside,
Made me decide to take a look!

The blue jay was vibrant and adamant too,
No other bird was to take residence
In his tree, or share in his space,
His needs, should take precedence.

In my well rested,
Relaxed vacation state,
I watched the interaction
I let the pages wait,
Spellbound by birds'
Acts of cruelty,
Lack of sensitivity towards
Each others fate.

I felt sorry for that blue jay
As I returned to my book,
On my warm couch,
Next to my own tree,

He probably felt victorious,
I guess
He won that battle,
I guess,
He got what he wanted,
I guess,
He had his moment,
I guess.

As I returned
To my vacation mode,
My own time to reflect,
Over this ode,
My mind wandered,
Thoughts of how easy it is
In the heat of the moment
To put our 'wants' first,
Ahead of our neighbors,
Co-workers, employees,
Our friends,
Over those we care about
Above those we love.

This moment in time
Might just serve to be,
A central message
For the new year,
For you and for me.  

It's easy to become embroiled 
In our own battles, wants, pain,
Our momentary druthers,
We can forget how
Our actions, silence, our choice of words, 
Will change the lives of others.  

Perhaps my central message 
For this new year to be 
Will be to do unto others,
As I hope others will do unto me!  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Twas after Christmas

'Twas two days after Christmas
Under the trees, it was bare,
The once overflowing fridge looked
As if, the Grinch had been there, 
The laundry was piled
As high as the trees
And the vacation chore list
Was blowing in the breeze.
The gym, it was empty,
The streets were quiet too,
Perhaps everyone
Had the post Christmas blues?
It was then that I remembered..

Christmas and Hanukkah had arrived
Together this year,
Encouraging us to think of peace
Hope and good cheer,
The lights from candles,
And decorated homes around town,
Seem to be reminders we all
Need to slow down.
The hope and promise of miracles,
The thought of families at play
Serve as holiday reminders
Soak up, appreciate, and enjoy today. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

#sol16 Mighty and Miraculous: Words Matter

I was sorting through cards
Trying to find one that would 
Sum up my year, state-of-mind,
My hopes and dreams for others.

"Merry Christmas," too cheery,
"Happy Holidays," too formal,
I settled on 
"Joy and Peace"
Knowing that was a mighty wish
For me, for my family,
For my state, for my country,
For our world.

Yet, this holiday season,
When Hanukkah and Christmas
Merge into a season of
Multiple miracles,
We are reminded
Our words matter.

Words can
Alter the course of lives,
Detour hopes and dreams,
Provide hope for the hopeless,
Provide comfort for the distraught,
Be mighty powerful,
Be miraculous.

Yes, our words matter.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

OLW: Persist

I selected my OLW this year, or perhaps my OLW selected me, on a dark January day when my emotions were so scattered I didn't want to get out of bed BUT I wanted to move to Bora Bora (wherever that is).  I finally got up, maneuvered ice-slicked highways to work, and reflected on the day that and then I noticed my OLW started appearing.

"So glad you got here safely," a colleague commented.
I persisted I thought.

"I'm really good at that book now," one of my readers grinned.
We persisted I thought.
"He slept almost through the night," a proud parent crooned.
You persisted I thought.
"I'm going to persist, whenever the going gets tough," 
I thought
As I drifted back to where I began the day.

I've had many, many opportunities to "use" my OLW this year as I have settled an estate, moved to a new state, and pondered the state of my own life as well as the state of our country. Today, I used my OLW about 1,000 times as I tried to convince a person on the phone that I really did have an account at their firm and that we could solve this problem - working together!   It's been a year of goodbyes and sad endings as well as new faces, chapters and beginnings.  Many-a-day, I've used my OLW to pull up my boots and get through the day.  Many-a-day I've faced challenges that have brought me to my knees and emotions that have brought me to the edge of my sanity.  Yet, as this semester (and year) winds to a close, I'm glad I did not stay in bed that day and I am really glad I did not move to Bora Bora.  I'm reminded there are good books, warm hugs, and slobbery kisses for those who persist. The number of end-of-semester papers/projects is declining and has almost reached single digits!  I'm closer to a closed out estate, solved brokerage-puzzle, and I'm confident there will be peace-filled days for all of us who persist through the tough chapters of our lives, our states, and our country.   
We have two choices when the going gets tough: to bail or to persist.  I'm glad I keep choosing to persist.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

#sole2016 From here

These are the chairs where we sat
Not long ago on summer nights,
Reading, talking, sharing,
Gifts, ghosts, from Christmas past.

Today, they sit empty
Except for 
Holly-burlap-festooned decorations,

If only they could talk:
They would tell of looking forward,
Of lights, families, love,
Hope this holiday season.

They would tell how 
They, at least, are ready 
For a holiday rolling in
Like a great storm on the horizon.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Smelling Memories

Three years ago today, I wrote about decorating my 10-foot, artificial tree with ornaments collected over the many decades we were a family.  I read the post today as my "roots" were changing colors and my hair salon buzzed with discussion of trees, decorating and family traditions.  I listened and did not join in the discussion as my own definition of family has fractured, changed, grown, and morphed in the past few years.  I sat listening, reading, and reflecting my words from such a different time in my life.

"Today, I realized that Christmas is not about keeping things the same.  It's not about the tree, either.  It's about love - the kind that sees you through good times and not so good ones.  The kind that connects and protects families.  It's about the love that permeates the air when there is a tree filled with memories.  The smell might even be better than pine scent!"

I'm so glad I took the time to write about my thoughts that day.  I needed that memory today (thanks Facebook).  I am reminded that this season is indeed about the kind of love that connects and protects families.  I am pretty sure I smelled the scent filled with the potential of memories amidst the hoards at Home Depot where I bought yet another extension cord to try and fix my lights.  Tomorrow, perhaps, I will get a might be plastic and it might just be I can smell those memories.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Through my window

I was "stopped" on the highway the other morning as they cleared away a not-too-serious, very-annoying, multiple-vehicle, fender-bender event. I was listening to the news repeated at 8 minute intervals and had concluded that nothing newsworthy was happening anywhere.  It had been and was continuing to be one of those "slow-moving, hard-to-get-going, no-much-happening, throw-in-some-roadblock" kinds of days and my mind was adrift as IT appeared.

So very slowly, at first,
Like an orange on the horizon,
A small dollop of bright hope,
That blossomed like
A fire in a newspaper factory!
I was mesmerized by its majesty
By its beauty,
By its reminder of the potential
Of a new day
Filled with
The adventures of Frog and Toad,
The excitement of students
"Breaking" the code,
Amazing facts about Chester Greenwood 
(inventor of ear muffs),
Multiple readings of
How Do Dinosaurs 
Say Merry Christmas,
And slobbery kisses.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

#Through MY lens

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

#sol16 Through Raccoon Eyes I See

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

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

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

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

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