Sunday, April 29, 2012

What are you reading? Just Grace for Real Grace

Thanks to my Kindle reader App, I am sampling LOTS and LOTS of books these days.  It's a joy to be able to sample SO many books while snuggled under a blanket on my couch.  In some ways, it's like the old days back at Borders Books in the kids section when I would pull the chair right up to a new release section and fumble through books for a few minutes (which I miss dearly)...but in some ways, I have to admit I have "access" to even more for now....I am loving the App and its potential to show me what's out there in the big wide world outside of my mountain! (Of course, I am also buying LOTS and LOTS of books these days...but that is another post in and of itself!)
Recently, I found this series....Just Grace, by Charise Mericle Harper.
Just Grace
The title initially caught my eye because there is a very special Grace in my world but the series is worthy of this post and a purchase because it is VERY creative and a VERY good read!  Just Grace is a spirited character who faces the very real joys and challenges of an 8 year old living in today's world.   In addition, she is a reader and a writer who shares her own love for creative writing with her readers!
I love the "zine"comic type books that Just Grace makes and encourages her readers to make! Zines are just like the tiny books my very good friend Mary Lynn taught me to make!

Ivy's Zine

PS to the Real Grace,  I can assure you that you will be reading about Just Grace this summer. You are going to LOVE her! 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What do you do when you finish taking a high stakes test?

During the past two weeks, our students have been taking high stakes tests every day.  The 90 minutes of daily testing is a LONG time for an 8 year old to sit and work on ANYTHING!  Gee whiz...they wouldn't even focus on playing that long!
ANYWAY, the kids worked really hard every day and really tried to do their best; however, there was a quiet and intense tension in the air while they worked on their tests.  They worked diligently and concentrated and at times it was almost as if the room heated up while their brains worked on overload to answer questions- some of which were just plain hard!
THEN, after the prerequisite amount of time, the state said that their tests could be collected - if they were done - and they could be given their previously selected book to read. I wish I could have videotaped the before and after looks on their faces or find a way to document the change in energy flow of the room - but it happened.  We went from tense to tranquil in a New York minute! It was like the change in the air after a summer thunderstorm blows through! 
I know there is a message in all this that will certainly never be known to those in power to make decisions about measuring learning, but let me publicly share that yesterday, when I told them we were finally done, one little guy, deeply involved in the last page of a Wimpy Kid saga quietly said, "Please, just one more minute!"  Every single student in the room quietly respected his need to finish a "good book" before the rejoicing began!  We may be testing the daylights out of them; however, we have not taken away their love of reading!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

During the Hardest Days

During the hard times
When life seems unfair,
To confirm convictions
So that I can begin to understand
Better, even a little better,
I write

During the hardest days
When the pain of loss is greatest,
I pray for strength and patience
For a sign of hope,
That I can make the days ahead
Better, even a little better,
I pray

Monday, April 23, 2012

Linking to Poetry

I was trying to pull together a poetry resource page in honor of Poetry month; but Cathy at Reflect and Refine already did so and hers is great!  SO, I am just linking to it because I know I can't do any better!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thanks, Maya

While this blog was started as a means of sharing teaching thoughts and ideas, it has evolved into a a place where I share a lot of thoughts and ideas about living - in today's world.  Lots of days it's the technology or the tests that capture my thoughts.  Today, I am humbled by thoughts of the fragility of human life and the need to embrace and acknowledge our friends and family. I am grateful for  family, friends and faith - especially on the tough days of our lives - in whatever century we are living.

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.” ―
Maya Angelou

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Graphic Novels

As a kid, I was not a lover of comic books, but I read them.  I had access to LOTS off them because my just a wee bit older and wiser cousin had TONS of them and my slightly younger sister would only read them!  I knew of the adventures of Archie and Jughead as well as the tales of Superman in a stage of my life when I just loved to escape with any good tale.  The neat thing about comics was that they were "very re-readable"!  Just for the record, I also read: Bobbsey Twins (all of them); Nancy Drew (all of them); The Boxcar Children (all of them); and Cherry Ames, Student Nurse (the whole series). 
I pretty much inhaled books and thus I read them again and again and again.

Fast forward a few decades (lots of decades to be exact) and today I spent quite a while trying to find today's versions of comics for kids - graphic novels - for second grade students who find reading challenging but WANT to read graphic novel.  I'm very familiar with the Diary of a Whimpy Kid series and I've explored Sonic and Pokeman.....but I suspect there is a more !  SO, if you find this post and can suggest something, I will appreciate it - big time! 
There is only SO much $$ I am willing to spend on Pokeman books! Pokémon Adventures, Vol. 8
PS SERIOUSLY, I need to write some easy reader graphic novels this summer! 
I could be rich! 

Blooms Taxonomy - DIgitally

You never know what you might find in your email in the morning! 
This morning, it was a digital version on Bloom's Taxonomy, a perspective of thinking that really HAS stood the test of time and deserves our continued respect.  It is pretty amazing to think that Bloom was WAY AHEAD of his time! 

Bloom's Taxonomy Blooms Digitally

    By Andrew Churches

from Educators' eZine
Introduction and Background:
Bloom's Taxonomy
Bloom's TaxonomyIn the 1950's Benjamin Bloom developed his taxonomy of cognitive objectives,

Bloom's Taxonomy. This categorized and ordered thinking skills and objectives. His taxonomy follows the thinking process. You can not understand a concept if you do not first remember it, similarly you can not apply knowledge and concepts if you do not understand them. It is a continuum from Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) to Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS). Bloom labels each category with a gerund.
Bloom's Revised Taxonomy
Bloom's Revised TaxonomyIn the 1990's, a former student of Bloom, Lorin Anderson, revised Bloom's Taxonomy and published this- Bloom's Revised Taxonomy in 2001.Key to this is the use of verbs rather than nouns for each of the categories and a rearrangement of the sequence within the taxonomy. They are arranged below in increasing order, from low to high.
Bloom's Revised Taxonomy Sub Categories
Each of the categories or taxonomic elements has a number of key verbs associated with it
Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS)

  • Remembering - Recognising, listing, describing, identifying, retrieving, naming, locating, finding
  • Understanding - Interpreting, Summarising, inferring, paraphrasing, classifying, comparing, explaining, exemplifying
  • Applying - Implementing, carrying out, using, executing
  • Analysing - Comparing, organising, deconstructing, Attributing, outlining, finding, structuring, integrating
  • Evaluating - Checking, hypothesising, critiquing, Experimenting, judging, testing, Detecting, Monitoring
  • Creating - designing, constructing, planning, producing, inventing, devising, making
Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)
The elements cover many of the activities and objectives but they do not address the new objectives presented by the emergence and integration of Information and Communication Technologies into the classroom and the lives of our students.
Bloom's digital taxonomy map
Mind map of Bloom's Revised Digital TaxonomyKey:
Elements coloured in black are recognised and existing verbs, Elements coloured in blue are new digital verbs.
This element of the taxonomy does infer the retrieval of material. This is a key element given the growth in knowledge and information.
The digital additions and their explanations are as follows:
  • Bullet pointing – This is analogous to listing but in a digital format.
  • Highlighting – This is a key element of most productivity suites; encouraging students to pick out and highlight key words and phrases is a technique for recall.
  • Bookmarking or favorite-ing – this is where the students mark for later use web sites, resources and files. Students can then organise these.
  • Social networking – this is where people develop networks of friends and associates. It forges and creates links between different people. Like social bookmarks (see below) a social network can form a key element of collaborating and networking.
  • Social bookmarking – this is an online version of local bookmarking or favorites, It is more advanced because you can draw on others' bookmarks and tags. While higher order thinking skills like collaborating and sharing, can and do make use of these skills, this is its simplest form - a simple list of sites saved to an online format rather than locally to the machine.
  • Searching or "Googling" - Search engines are now key elements of students' research. At its simplest the student is just entering a key word or phrase into the basic entry pane of the search engine. This skill does not refine the search beyond the key word or term.
Key Terms - Remembering:
Recognizing, listing, describing, identifying, retrieving, naming, locating, finding, Bullet pointing, highlighting, bookmarking, social networking, Social bookmarking, favorite-ing/local bookmarking, Searching, Googling.
The digital additions and their explanations are as follows:
  • Advanced and Boolean Searching – This is a progression from the previous category. Students require a greater depth of understanding to be able to create, modify and refine searches to suit their search needs.
  • Blog Journaling – This is the simplest of the uses for a blog, where a student simply "talks" "writes" or "types" a daily- or task-specific journal. This shows a basic understanding of the activity reported upon. The blog can be used to develop higher level thinking when used for discussion and collaboration.
  • Twittering – The Twitter site's fundamental question is "what are you doing?" This can be, in its most simplistic form, a one or two word answer, but when developed this is a tool that lends itself to developing understanding and potentially starting collaboration.
  • Categorizing – digital classification - organizing and classifying files, web sites and materials using folders etc.
  • Commenting and annotating – a variety of tools exist that allow the user to comment and annotate on web pages, .pdf files and other documents. The user is developing understanding by simply commenting on the pages. This is analogous with writing notes on hand outs, but is potentially more powerful as you can link and index these.
  • Subscribing – Subscription takes bookmarking in its various forms and simplistic reading one level further. The act of subscription by itself does not show or develop understanding but often the process of reading and revisiting the subscribed-to feeds leads to greater understanding.
Key Terms - Understanding:
Interpreting, Summarizing, inferring, paraphrasing, classifying, comparing, explaining, exemplifying, Advanced searching, Boolean searching, blog journaling, twittering, categorising and tagging, commenting, annotating, subscribing.
The digital additions and their justifications are as follows:
  • Running and operating – This is the action of initiating a program or operating and manipulating hardware and applications to obtain a basic goal or objective.
  • Playing – The increasing emergence of games as a mode of education leads to the inclusion of this term in the list. Students who successfully play or operate a game are showing understanding of process and task and application of skills.
  • Uploading and Sharing - uploading materials to websites and the sharing of materials via sites like flickr etc. This is a simple form of collaboration, a higher order thinking skill.
  • Hacking – hacking in its simpler forms is applying a simple set of rules to achieve a goal or objective.
  • Editing – With most media, editing is a process or a procedure that the editor employs.
Key Terms - Applying:
Implementing, carrying out, using, executing, running, loading, playing, operating, hacking, uploading, sharing, editing.
The digital additions and their explanations are as follows:
  • Mashing – mash ups are the integration of several data sources into a single resource. Mashing data currently is a complex process but as more options and sites evolve this will become an increasingly easy and accessible means of analysis.
  • Linking – this is establishing and building links within and outside of documents and web pages.
  • Reverse-engineering – this is analogous with deconstruction. It is also related to cracking often with out the negative implications associated with this.
  • Cracking – cracking requires the cracker to understand and operate the application or system being cracked, analyse its strengths and weaknesses and then exploit these.
  • Validating – With the wealth of information available to students combined with the lack of authentication of data, students of today and tomorrow must be able to validate the veracity of their information sources. To do this they must be able to analyse the data sources and make judgements based on these.
  • Tagging – This is organising, structuring and attributing online data, meta-tagging web pages etc. Students need to be able understand and analyse the content of the pages to be able to tag it.
Key Terms - Analysing:
Comparing, organising, deconstructing, Attributing, outlining, finding, structuring, integrating, Mashing, linking, reverse-engineering, cracking, mind-mapping, validating, tagging.
The digital additions and their explanations are as follows:
  • Blog/vlog commenting and reflecting – Constructive criticism and reflective practice are often facilitated by the use of blogs and video blogs. Students commenting and replying to postings have to evaluate the material in context and reply.
  • Posting – posting comments to blogs, discussion boards, threaded discussions. These are increasingly common elements of students' daily practice. Good postings like good comments, are not simple one-line answers but rather are structured and constructed to evaluate the topic or concept.
  • Moderating – This is high level evaluation; the moderator must be able to evaluate a posting or comment from a variety of perspectives, assessing its worth, value and appropriateness.
  • Collaborating and networking – Collaboration is an increasing feature of education. In a world increasingly focused on communication, collaboration leading to collective intelligence is a key aspect. Effective collaboration involves evaluating the strengths and abilities of the participants and evaluating the contribution they make. Networking is a feature of collaboration, contacting and communicating with relevant person via a network of associates.
  • Testing (Alpha and Beta) – Testing of applications, processes and procedures is a key element in the development of any tool. To be an effective tester you must have the ability to analyze the purpose of the tool or process, what its correct function should be and what its current function is.
Key Terms – Evaluating:
Checking, hypothesising, critiquing, experimenting, judging, testing, detecting, monitoring, (Blog/vlog) commenting, reviewing, posting, moderating, collaborating, networking, reflecting, (Alpha & beta) testing.
The digital additions and their explanations are as follows:
  • Programming – Whether it is creating their own applications, programming macros or developing games or multimedia applications within structured environments, students are routinely creating their own programs to suit their needs and goals.
  • Filming, animating, videocasting, podcasting, mixing and remixing – these relate to the increasing availability of multimedia and multimedia editing tools. Students frequently capture, create, mix and remix content to produce unique products.
  • Directing and producing – to directing or producing a product, performance or production is a highly creative process. It requires the student to have vision, understand the components and meld these into a coherent product.
  • Publishing – whether via the web or from home computers, publishing in text, media or digital formats is increasing. Again this requires a huge overview of not only the content being published, but the process and product. Related to this concept are also Video blogging – the production of video blogs, blogging and also wiki-ing - creating, adding to and modify content in wikis. Creating or building Mash ups would also fit here.
Key Terms – Creating:
designing, constructing, planning, producing, inventing, devising, making, programming, filming, animating, Blogging, Video blogging, mixing, remixing, wiki-ing, publishing, videocasting, podcasting, directing/producing, creating or building mash ups.
Churches, A. 2007, Educational Origami, Bloom's and ICT Tools
Anderson, L.W., and D. Krathwohl (Eds.) (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing: a Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Longman, New York.
Acknowledgements: For assistance, discussion and often punctuation:Miguel Guhlin, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Alan Knightbridge, Sue Cattell, Raewyn Casey, Marg McLeod, Doug DeKock
Andrew Churches

Monday, April 16, 2012


Aretha sings about it. 
In sports, money seems to equal it.
In education, who you teach seems to determine it.
In some states, how your students do on a test helps to compute it.
College professors (who typically earn less than public school teachers) have it! 
Public school teachers (compared to private school) have more of it!
High school teachers (compared to elementary) have more of it!
Suburban teachers (compared to urban) have more of it!. 
Primary grade teachers have less than middle school teachers!
Kindergarten teachers are near the bottom of the pecking order.
Special education teachers pull up the rear. 

In kindergarten or special education,
It may be the hardest job of all,
Some days,
But other days,
It's middle grade teachers who deal with hormones,
Other days,
 HS teachers who deal with college acceptance and other life changing decisions.
Some days,
Those who work with students who find learning challenging
It's sad that even among teachers,
There is not always RESPECT for the jobs we do! 
That's why we aren't in a better position to garner support!
Yet, all of us who teach or profess our sentiments and beliefs
Are professors!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rock, Gravel, Sand

My "dream" spring break would include some time with my feet in the sand; however the reality of  differing "break" weeks as well as the need to "catch up" with life has always meant that the week was quiet with a day trip or two. 
After hiking to the top of this mountain (see photo below) the other day, I was exhausted but relaxed and reflective on the prominent role of "rocks" in my life. 

We live on the top of a mountain and in addition to the boulders on the foot of our driveway, you can't dig a hole without hitting rock!  When my kids were little, they collected rocks in elaborate collections that covered their dressers and filled jars and we hiked nearby sections of the rocky Appalachian Trail regularly.  
So as I sat atop the mountain staring into this rock, gravel and sand pit the other day ( I am sure I had never seen a gravel pit from high above before), it all seemed to make sense.  Climbing a rocky mountain is a pretty effective way to relax and prepare for the challenges ahead because rocks, gravel and sand are one and the same - different forms of the same matter!  

I'm still hoping for a spring break at the beach some day; however, even if it never happens, I "get" how a lovely hike on sunny spring day gives you the same sense of renewal! 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

To Be a Writer: To Persuade

"Writing is just not his thing," the teacher noted during the conference, "but he can express his ideas very effectively in discussion! You really need to encourage him to write about what is interesting to him.  He needs to feel the need to write," she added. 
His parents knew he needed to write about topics that were of interest and so the deal was that he would write about every baseball game.  They would not "bug" him about his entries, but if he did not write, he would miss the next game. He wrote, reluctantly.
His parents encouraged writing on the computer and even put the aging family computer (without Internet service) into his room as  motivation.  If he did not write, he would lose TV privileges.
It was a few years later, near the end of HS, when they knew the efforts had yielded fruit.  He wrote a long and detailed persuasive letter, pleading for driving privileges. He got them.  Writing persuasively is "his thing."   

To Be a Writer: Words Are Reminders of Our Thinking

"Just write it down" her Mom would say, "Some day you will agree with me!" 
"Sure," she muttered, "Writing it down won't make it better," she added with an attitude reflecting her 13 wise years.
"Some day you will know I am right, her mom added assuredly. Those early teen years were difficult ones for them all as they adapted to a new family and living situation amidst all the strife and angst of the early teen years. 
It was during the great purge of dried up apple cores and stained tee-shirts that her mom found them nested in the bottom drawer of her dresser and in a box in the back of the closet.  She stopped to finger through the first one - remembering the little girl's handwriting - not sure if she should read the words.  She decided to read just one, and then another, and then another.....until hours later, she sat alone on the floor of that daughter's room remembering the other side of the those events.  There were a few that made her cry like, "If only he could see me for more than my body." There  were many that made her smile, "I'm so glad she said no, because I couldn't have."   Each one reflected a small piece of her daughter's transition from youth to adolescence.  At the end, she knew that they were treasures and packed them all into the tote box of baby dolls and yearbooks, treasures that her daughter might want some day. 
It was many years later, when she returned home to help clean out the house and prepare her mom for her own transition.  She found herself doing what she always did to get through complex emotions - she wrote. It was near the end of the cleaning and sorting that she opened that tote box in the attic and started reading. 
"I guess Mom was right," began the entry that night.   

To Be a Teacher: Might As Well

It sounded like a good idea at that moment and she figured the long summer breaks would give her time to work on her running.  She might even have time for a triathlon if she was not working a corporate calendar!  The coursework seemed pretty easy for the most part and her classmates were not stressing over tests; thus, she might as well try education.
She went on only one interview and the recruiter was impressed with her bilingual status resulting in a job offer on the spot!  There were quite a few second language learners and thus she was an important resource to the other teachers, translating and supporting kids whose English was still pretty limited.  Within 3 years, she had left her inner city job for a spot in the 'burbs where her translating skills got limited - if any - use.  She went through the motions, doing what she was told to do by administrators and staff developers. She attended a workshop one summer offered by her district but for the rest of her decades in the profession, she did just what she needed to do to get through each day and each year.  Sometimes, she reflected on that fateful day when she decided to be a teacher, but not often.  It was a job that paid the bills even when she no longer ran every day.  At this point, she might as well be a teacher.   

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

To Be a Teacher: Family Tradition

Until he was 18, school was where he HAD to go and HAD to get enough done to assure his music lessons and access to his amplifiers.  Then, he escaped to college where he majored in music (not music education as his dad had pleaded) and partying (a major not sanctioned by the university).  He did graduate and spent 5 years with a fledgling rock band until they ran out of money and gigs.  It was during his time as an assistant manager in Starbucks that he knew where he wanted to be. The idea, pushed deep into his subconscious, was to make a difference in kids lives - to make school a place where kids like HIM would WANT to learn. 
Perhaps it was because he KNEW how much work it was to be a teacher.  His mom was ALWAYS doing lessons or correcting papers.  Perhaps it was because he KNEW how much time it took to give lessons and conduct a school orchestra. His dad had missed many a dinner and most of his Little League games thanks to his own school responsibilities. 
It was a challenge to go back when his classmates were much younger, but the masters degree in music education and a few years of subbing at his dad's school put him in the right place at the right time to be a teacher, when his dad retired. 
Just like the kings and queens of ancient times who passed along their thrones, sometimes, we are destined by our heritage to be teachers.  Other times, we do what we have lived: to be a teacher. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

To Be a Teacher: Accidentally

She wanted to be in the WBA since its inception.  She practiced and dreamed and played year round.  She was not the brightest star in high school but played college ball and dreamed.  To be a professional in her sport and to be paid for what she loved seemed within reach until a chance injury changed the course of her life.  The physical healing was not really a big deal for a physically strong person like her; however, the emotional healing was slow and her soul was sad.  
Then, one day came a phone call from a friend of a friend of a friend seeking a last minute high school coach.  Please he begged in the message - if you are available, we could really use your help. 
So she did thinking it would fill the day until she could find a new direction.  It was the direction she did not know she needed.  She is shaping the future and sharing the dreams of her own WBA wanna bes.  She is a professional, a teacher and a role model for her sport, accidentally!   

To Be a Teacher: The Dream

It started in third grade: the yearning to be a teacher. The desire to encourage and to share empowering stories with her kids grew stronger and stronger as she became a teenager - even after she stopped playing school every day. She talked about it and planned for it as she worked hard in high school. She found a way to get to college (lots and lots of loans) but she made it  and even did her student teaching within the four years!
There might have been a job if she was willing to pack up and give it a try the recruiter said.  Move away from her family? What about the emerging relationship? How would she be able to go to grad school? Could she afford an apartment?
She went to grad school instead. More debt, but hopes there would be jobs after.. She subbed and temped and hoped and dreamed and was disappointed again and again. She talked about another certification and about her dream that grew fainter and fainter over time. 
The dream has faded now, but there is a tiny hope that someday, someday she will get the call and follow her dream.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Same Old Story: The Story Map Version

You've heard of the Great Debate?  The highly emotional war between those who feel there is only one way to teach kids to read? 
The characters change, but it's the same old story! 
Main Character: An adjunct professor on Spring Break
Setting: Monday morning. Up early to finish work on syllabus for the Summer.
Problem: Types in "Reading Teacher" to bring up journal articles.  Link pops up  Professor reads the article due to its catchy title.

Story Details:
          1. At first professor is relieved that Sky News is from the UK
          2. She is angered that article depicts beginning reading as pure decoding
          3. She stops and ponders about the ageless debate again rearing its ugly head.
Solution / Ending: Must find some compelling reads that contain research-based theoretical foundations for teaching reading in an age where politicians and parents alike do not trust teachers. 
About the Author: The author values and teaches phonics in systematic and multi sensory ways every day.  She is a certified Wilson Phonics teacher; however, she is KEENLY aware that reading is a meaning making process and focusing of synthetic phonics will not support the formation of lifelong readers. Kids need a strong foundation in meaningful and engaging reading and writing.  She is reminded that the The Great Debate is not going away anytime soon and wants teachers to know how to answer concerns and teach children effective reading strategies.

After you've practiced strategies, what test prep is best?

During this last week before our high stakes ELA statewide assessment, we are on Spring Break.

Hello planning people?  What were you thinking? The kids are at Disney or playing in backyards or in day camp playing in the sunshine and having lots of fun.  They are tuckered out so they crash at night!

We've practiced the format and talked about the importance of just doing your best....
We've practiced bubbling in dots and determing the best answer from close choices...
We've practice graphic organizers and taked about the importance of reading questinos carefully...

AND NOW?  They get the week off before the test?  They might forget everything we've taught them?
What were you thinking when you made this schedule? 

They're ready with strategies and getting a well deserved break before the days they will need to demonstrate their reading and math proficiency.  I'm sure many of them will use this time to read some really wonderful books on their shelves.  I'm sure they have ones they have been too busy to read!

Were you thinking that reading and resting might be the best thing for all of us? You might be right!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter, Spring, Break, Family,and Jelly Bellies

Each of these words conjures up a positive image, 
The promise of a new beginning,
It's what this season is really about.
I'm glad
For a few days off,
For jelly bellies on my table,
For this season of hope,
That long ago,
Grew from unimaginable sadness,
This season of hope,
Even when there is sadness,
Was promised us.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Long ago,as a "newbie" teacher , I used to get on the Beltway around Washington DC to head to school in the morning,  My class was hard and I was often overwhelmed with the responsibility of teaching the 39 first graders in my care.  I imagined staying on the Beltway - not getting off at my exit - just driving around that big circle all day long!  I never made that choice, but I vividly remember thinking about making that choice!  I'm glad that I made the choice to head into school every day...even though it was very hard some days...glad that I stayed in this profession...even though it is very hard some days..... 

We all make choices numerous times during every day of our lives.  There are big choices and little choices. Some are hard choices and others easier.  Sometimes we choose to put others first and sometimes we put ourselves first.  Some choices have positive and some have negative consequences.  Some choices impact those around us in big ways while other choices impact how we look and feel about ourselves.  Some people choose to share their joys and sorrows in a very public forum while others tend to hold their happiness and concerns closer to their heart.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the big and not so big choices we make as we go through life lately. Perhaps it is the stage of life when I realize there are big changes all around me.  Sometimes, those decisions seem so big and foreboding at the take a get a have a get a get a car...where to live.....what to wear...who to have dinner with....yet each of theses choices, when we look back, was the right choice for us at the time.... just like when I decided to get off the Beltway in Oxen Hill each morning.  Retrospect is easier than prospect I guess! 


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Teachers do not work 9-3 and they don't work M-F either

On Saturday, I was at school working on curriculum.  We came in jeans and sweatshirts and labored over the common core all day.  It was great to reflect on all the wonderful curriculum we have in place; it was hard to acknowledge all the gaps we need to fill, but we did.  I did moan and groan quite a bit as I left in the icy, early morning cold and even had a bit of a a "pitty party" as I drove down the parkway; but, those thoughts were honestly pretty short lived as I reflected on the fact that is was certainly not the first nor the last time I worked outside of regular teaching hours!
I thought about how when my kids were little, I often went into school on Saturday so that I could get home a little earlier in the afternoons.  Now, I am on my computer every night and every Saturday and Sunday either answering emails or planning or working on something school related.  It's a lot of work to engage diverse students, meet the diverse standards, and differentiate instruction! 

I thought about our busy school days where we hit the ground running with last minute copying and bus duty and emails.  We typically start any hint at socializing in the hallway, after the kids have left. At that point, we do what other professionals do during "coffee break" or around the proverbial water cooler!  But, we don't do if for long.  We plan, we organize and we meet to discuss kids after the kids leave.  We discuss what we did and how we can do it better.  We call parents and answer emails and fill out book orders.  We mentor newer teachers and we coordinate instruction across grades and buildings to assure alignment and continuity. 

I thought about teachers who are already teaching every Saturday morning to help kids make up their gaps in neighborhoods with the most needy kids of all. In big cities, like NYC, this is already part of the program - and it is helping.  I thought of those who work every day after school, like my son, making big impressions on kids as their coaches. Coaches give their Saturdays, summer days and many a vacation day too.  There are theater and music teachers who put in countless hours supervising hormonal kids and guiding them into actors and musicians.  While we get some monetary compensation for our extra time,  I suspect the hourly pay rate would be startlingly low for many who give so much. 

I really cannot complain....about my Saturday even though I had a little less time to clean and shop.  I do have a deeper respect for those teachers who work lots more Saturdays than fact, my "pitty party" turned into a "bumper sticker" or "t-shirt logo" of sorts:
Don't work 9-3
                            Don't work M-F
                                                   Work during vacations
                           Shape the future

April's Fools

"Mrs. F., did you know you got a hole is your shirt? " 
"Yeah you put your foot in it!"
"Really? Do you mean I put my put my head in my shirt?"
"No I mean you put your foot in it!"
"April Fools"

I just realized that kids won't be in school today, and thus the jokes of kids who are still just trying to  understand "jokes" will not happen this year!  Sigh...I'll miss it....