Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wonder (R.J.Palacio) : My Review of a Wonderful Book!

WonderI've been seeing it on lists and reading rave reviews for nearly four months; however, I decided it was more for "older kids" and didn't rush to read it. Recently, I forwarded a list of "great classroom reads" to a new teacher and decided I really didn't want to recommend a book I had not yet read.  Then, to add insult to injury, this new teacher had already read Wonder!  It moved to the top of my list.

Reading it was easy.  I read it during the Olympics and in the morning when I should have been working.  I read it after I should have gone to bed.  It is well written and compelling story about a fifth grade boy with significant facial deformities that makes you think more about yourself than you do about him!   

The reviews I read earlier suggested it should be required reading for every middle school student because it makes you think about friendship and empathy.  It would be a great book to discuss in a literature circle because there is so much to talk about: characters, voice, discrimination, bullying, growing up, what each of us would do in that situation.  I also think it is a great story to start off the year in any 3rd through 6th grade classroom because it provides a framework for discussing the many small and large discriminatory practices that emerge in any community of people.

In time, some of the contemporary references to Justin Bieber and Star Wars movies might make it seem a bit dated.  In time, there will probably be a movie made about this book.  In time, everyone will know the "story" and the book will become a reference of how each of us we can make a difference in the lives of ourselves and others based on what we say and do. 

For those of you who like me were slower on the reading of this book, you can order it here:
The Author's website:
Some of the many rave reviews:

A Clean Car is Valuable

I really the fresh scent of a clean car; however, clean is not how I would describe my car on most days.  I spend a lot of time in my car due to my at least 60 minute (each way) commute.  I eat dry cereal, nibble on raisins, consume coffee, and sip tea while driving to and from work.  The purchase of a "new" car always leads to promises (to myself) that I will not eat cereal or drink coffee in the car.  These "new car" promises suffer the same fate as most New Year's Resolutions; thus, I'm drinking coffee within a week and eating dry cereal in 2 weeks.  After that, it's very hard to refrain from eating and drinking in the car.  Usually, once or twice a year I need to really clean the car so that I am not totally embarrassed when I give someone a ride!  The other day, I did the annual deep clean and the treasures were worth at least $390.70.  I was pretty amazed! 

  • Lots of dried pine needles (6 months old, worthless)
  • 14 empty / partially empty bottles of water ( worth .70)
  • 3 cups old dried up Cheerios (worthless)
  • 2 pairs running / walking shorts (worth at least $30)
  • 37 old gas receipts (worthless)
  • 9 shoes, 3 without partners (the partners were in my closet saving me at least $300)
  • 2 packages of dried up snacks that fell under the seat (worthless)
  • 2 sweaters, (worth at least $30)
  • Lots of old receipts from shopping at Walmart, Kmart, Sears, A & P, Stop & Shop, Hess, Dunkin Doughnuts, Stew Leonards, Talbots, Ann Taylor, Lord & Taylor, Crate & Barrel (worthless but evidence of my eclectic shopping)
  • A gift that I purchased for someone (and couldn't find at the time) for Christmas last year! (worth at least $30) 
As they say in the American Express ads, the cleaning was a valuable experience, but the look and smell of the clear car was priceless! If only it could stay clean?   

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book Review: Twenty

I just finished the book, Twenty, written by my colleague,Mark Milstein. Like many of us, Mark has a "secret" life as a writer doing what he preaches for his students to do. 
I struggled at the beginning with the premise of how it would feel to be "young" and yet have the maturity of "time." Then in the middle, it was hard to see where the story would go. Then, I got near the end and I absolutely fell in love with Marty and the premise that, given the chance, we might be able to use the wisdom we have earned to "right our wrongs" and "be even better." It is indeed a love story that appeals to readers to treasure those they love and to keep their focus on what is important. Mark's message comes through loud and clear. "Old love" - even with all its warts - is special and wonderful.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lucy Calkins Explores Common Core

I was thumbing through old catalogs the other day (another thing teachers do during the summer) and found this great article about the Common Core along with concrete suggestions for implementing.  I just finished reading Pathways to the Common Core (Calkins, Ehrenworth, & Lehman) but this article pretty much sums up the big picture of the book! The suggestions are  certainly worth sharing just in case you too haven't yet read the book or you missed the article in the Heineman catalog for PD!

Suggestions include:
1) Implement a spiraled, cross curricular K-12
writing workshop curriculum
2) Move students up levels of text complexity by providing
just right high interest books and time to read.
3) Prioritize argument and informational writing
4) Focus on higher order comprehension.
5) Increase cross curricular analytical reading.

Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement

Thursday, July 26, 2012

GOOD from procrastination

I'm SUPPOSED to be doing some curriculum work this afternoon; however, I keep getting sidetracked by the sounds of impending storms and the lure of the Internet.  I sympathize with kids these days. I checked out my "virtual friend" Wanda's blog
and that took me to the AMAZING LINK!

I guess there will be some good that comes from my procrastination! 

With Sadness, With Joy, With Hope

I have been participating in a Teachers Write "virtual" writing group.  I wanted to increase my own writing and maybe "finish" one of the many stories that are churning in my head; however, I also wanted to "practice what I preach" and conduct a little "action research" about writing.  One thing I have observed is that poetry is a means to express what we think.  Sometimes, poems emerge as we are trying to write about other things! 

With Sadness,
I remember sharing, laughing, living,
Clueless as to what was ahead.
I remember tears, angst, pain,
From life-changing words,
I remember saying good-bye,
Wondering what lay ahead.

With Joy,
 I remember gatherings,
Too many people, too few plates,
Too much food, too much laughter,
I remember pop-ins that lasted for hours,
Drop-ins just in time for dinner,
I remember having so much to do,
Lives filled with activity and anticipation.

With Hope
I remember people are capable
Of loving more than once,
Of endless caring,
Of forgiveness,
  I remember that what lies ahead,
Is potential for peace and happiness,
I remember we can and do change our course,
Many times within each life.
"With a new day comes new strength
and new thoughts." (E. Roosevelt)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Have Done, Need To, Want To Do

I am doing what teachers everywhere (I think) do at the mid point of the summer.  I'm thinking about what I have done, what I need to do, and what I really want to do!  The horrific events of this week and the pervasive sadness I've felt for months have contributed to a more reflective me.  In fact, this list poem crept into my head as I tried to write about cleaning my car!  I see a message here, clear as a sunny day. 

Have Done
 Cleaned pantry
Cleaned car
Read Pathway to Common Core
Read Babymouse for President
Need To
Set up classroom
Clean office
  Write syllabi   
Chose new text for course
Want To
Walk on the beach at sunrise
Laugh with my children
Have a family gathering to celebrate life
Give my mother a reason to smile
Pray in great cathedrals
Make memories

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sharing Research About Writing

My "cup of tea" reading this morning was a link from the national Writing Project Daily  about a study of writing on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

This research study suggests:

Students value:

  • Opportunities to write about something that matters to them
  • Opportunities for new thinking and learning
  • Opportunities to dig deeply and make connections
  • Explicit understanding of the assignment's relation to the course material
  • Specific guidelines
  • Feedback (comments, what works as well as what could be improved)
  • Time
  • Models

  • Teachers (professors) value:
    • Making writing a predictable classroom exercise
    • Using writing to promote thinking
    • Using shorter, not graded papers (often written in class) to engage students but also to assess what they know.
    • Breaking larger projects into smaller components

    I think I've heard this before, but it is important to realize that what "makes writing" instruction worthwhile is similar at every stage of the journey. 

    Sunday, July 22, 2012

    Through The Eyes of a Child

    We had been waiting for a "beach day" at our local State Park since the beginning of the summer.  It seemed like every Friday was a "busy one" for one of us or the other.  Finally, we had a Friday dedicated to the cause.  As the temperature soared near 100 during the middle of the week, I, at least, eagerly awaited wading in the cool lake water and sharing my sand castle building skills.
    However, those blistering hot days were followed inevitably, at the end of the week, by some much needed cooler and rainy weather, ending the beach day plan as well as anything else outside!  We headed to a local children's museum and the gift, for me, was to see the exhibits through the eyes of children.
    When my own kids were little, I was probably too busy watching them to really notice the interactions and what gives kids pleasure.  The "gift" of being a "great" auntie is that I get to enjoy every minute and remember what makes kids "tick."  Just in case you might have forgotten, when you are four, it's the little things that matter, like signing your name on the Declaration of Independence and dotting the "i" with vigor and gusto. 

    Truth be told, I also had a lot of fun at the museum.  The locally found mastedon was pretty neat and the bubble maker was wonderful, too!  We even got the see a Terra Cotta Warrior without going into Manhattan.

    Plus, I found a "setting" that really added a fabulous chapter to my summer writing.

    To borrow a from a Judith Viorst title, It Was a Wonderful, Terrific, Funfilled, Interesting, New Adventure Filled Day.

    Bravo to Some Amazing Teachers

    In yesterday's Poughkeepsie Journal (linked below) there was an article about two local teachers who had been laid off due to the cutbacks so many school districts are experiencing in tight economic times.
    It is particularly interesting that they are choosing to build their curriculum around the Get Set Curriculum from Handwriting Without Tears.
    If I had a preschooler, I'd be stopping by to take a look.  The children in Fishkill, NY are the lucky ones as they are likely to have a preschool experience that will prepare them for the education journey ahead. 
    Jackie Stoddard, left, and Stephanie Edic, right, are the owners of Blossoming Minds Preschool in Fishkill. 7/17/12
    Picture by david Grimaldi from the Poughkeepsie Journal, July 21, 2012

    Saturday, July 21, 2012

    This opinion essay will get you thinking

    This article about special education appeared in my Twitter News Feed this morning.  It's one to get people thinking and talking while clearly expressing an opinion. Admittedly, the catchy title, Improving Special Education in Tough Times, caught my eye.  The authors are reflecting on their experiences working in urban settings and thus it does not reflect all settings.

    The authors suggest:
    • More inclusive settings might reduce teacher burnout / turnover.
    • Focus on instructional quality.

    I think they are suggesting:
    • Co-teaching classrooms with differentiated instruction.

    My comments:
    • Co-teaching can be a fabulous teaching and learning environment for students and teachers.
    • Co-teaching is a setting that does not in and of itself assure learning for ALL students. 
    • The focus should be on assuring a range of environments AND teaching strategies to assure that ALL students learn because we know that ALL students CAN learn. 

    Friday, July 20, 2012

    Reading Dogs

    Sarah wrote a wonderful post for the Nerdy Book Club today.  It will put a smile on your face for sure - from ear to ear.  You have to go there and read this.

    It got me thinking (I do that a lot when I read) about the use of stuffed animals as reading buddies - particularly in schools where we can't usually have rad dogs hanging around for reluctant readers!  We can, however, find a use for those big ol' stuffed dogs (bears, cats.....) they "give you" if you spend lots and lots of money at a carnival.  I suspect MOST of them end up in garbage piles pretty quickly but they might make really neat reading friends in class. 

    Now, as I write this, I can already see the potential problems with too many stuffed animals in schools.  1) Kids will likely fight over them and we will have to come up with a way to spread the usage fairly.  2) When the lice appears in your room ( and surely it will at some point) these precious friends will have to be disposed of quickly.

    However, I still think it would be nice to see what happens when stuffed animals were used to encourage reluctant readers.  A little action research perhaps?  Please let me know how it works for your...and I will report on MY "pet" project.    

    Thursday, July 19, 2012

    Neiman Marcus vs T. J. Maxx

    I still hear her voice echoing in my head as I shop and even when I just "pretend" to shop.  Again and again she implored, "You need to buy yourself something nice now and then." I remember her excitement when Filenes opened a store nearby, even if it was a place you only "visited" and dreamed about clothes.  I remember how she was beside herself with joy when Macy's moved into our "shopping zone" and she would regal me with tales of long-ago journeys into Manhattan to visit the mammoth flagship store.   
    I also remember how she loved to share her latest "find" from "her store," Marshalls.  My mother-in-law visited that store every week and watched those sale racks closely scoring some pretty amazing finds over the years.  There were the red patent leather shoes with a price tag of $1 (admittedly that was  few years ago) and a fancy (real velvet she pointed out) suit jacket purchased just days before her final trip into the hospital.  While her heart was at Macy's, she realized she could get more shopping pleasure at Marshalls. 
    I was thinking she would have been proud of me as I strolled through Nordstroms and Neiman Marcus thinking maybe I would try on a "new" dress for an upcoming formal party. Truth be told, I had never been in either one of those stores, before even though I have logged many shopping miles over the years.  In the end, I did not buy (nor even try on) any of the fabulous dresses I saw; however, I did note that Nordstoms carried lots of dresses that were made by the same manufacturer as the T.J. Maxx-dress that I will probably wear to the event!  I'm pretty sure she would be proud of me for recognizing the "designer" but I suspect she would be even MORE proud of me if I had purchased something at Nordstroms, too.   After all, "You need to buy  yourself something nice now and then."

    PS This is NOT a picture of me  and this is NOT a picture of my dress.  I'll consider a picture only if I lose 10 pounds before said event  :)

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    What do teachers do during the summer? They Publish

    Soms of us take this "Teachers Write" very seriously! 

    A Facebook message alerted me that my colleague has been busy and has published his novel,  "Twenty," a story of long love and marriage. 

    I'll be reading it soon! 

    Bravo, Mark!

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    $ Gas > $ Lobster

    Not too long ago, on a sunny morning on the edge of New England, as we prepared for a long bay hugging bike trail, a morning news report lamented that there had been a huge surplus of lobsters harvested of late and the falling price was causing lobster-fishermen and women considerable angst. Now, in our family, mussels, clams and calamari make regular appearances for special occasions, like Christmas Eve; however, lobster is a rarity saved for very special times and usually consumed at a restaurant.  At least to me, it had always been the more expensive shellfish and outside the edge of responsible shopping. Plus, we like mussels, clams and calamari a lot and you can stretch them to feed a crowd with some pasta! 

    As I noted yesterday, we did our part to help the lobster fishing industry after our 30 mile (it was a flat, paved rail trail/bike path) trek; however, the whole falling lobster price situation got me wondering about the cost of lobster and gas over time. 
    This article in the Bangor Daily News  reported that the current price that lobstermen (their term not mine, I would call them lobster men and women) are getting is less than $2 per pound!  For many years, the price has hovered around $4 per pound.  It has not been below $2 since the mid 1970's!  In the world of lobster fishing, it would appear that time has been "rolled back."  However, during those same years, the price of diesel fuel to run the boats has certainly NOT gone down.  Diesel fuel now costs 10 times what it did in the mid 1970's. 

    I did a little more research on the internet and at a site called the Hobnob Blog they describe how the price of lobster meals rose faster than inflation starting in the 1860's until the late 1920's.  "In the 1930's and 1940's the inflation-adjusted price fell but from the 1950's to the 1970's it again exceeded inflation. In years since then the inflation-adjusted price has remained stable or fallen slightly."
    "Before the 1880s, it was unusual to see lobster on menus," said Jones. "It was considered trash fish that people didn't want."  The authors of Hobnob Blog quote a 2005 Census on Marine Life, "Before the 1880s, it was unusual to see lobster on menus. It was considered trash fish that people didn't want."

    So in today's Slice of Life, I first want to admit to that I have been wrong to restrict lobster eating to very special occasions and will do my best to help the cause of lobster fishermen and women. In addition, I am encouraging everyone (who is not allergic to shellfish) to increase their consumption of lobster to help the cause of the lobster fisher men and women up and down the coast. Even if it has been a long time for you (like it was for me) you will quickly remember the taste and the joy of a delicacy that we certainly do not want to end up in the trash!

    Besides, other than mortgage rates, what else has gone down in cost like that?
    And, buying a few lobsters is still a whole lot cheaper than buying a house!

    PS Do you remember what a stamp cost in 1970?
    PPS Notice I scanned the SOL archives to find a red image for this week's lobster SOL :)


    Monday, July 16, 2012

    Salty Times: Reflection

    It's been a long time since we "got away" for a couple of days; but one of the ways we look at our lives through a new lens is to "leave" our comfortable and familiar world for a day or two.  

    I spent about 4 hours floating aimlessly in the waves and reading voraciously on the beach.  The two acts are not all that different.  Each transports you to another - very different - place than the usual world of jobs, chores, deadlines, needs and wants.  For a few hours, I was either on the hot sand in Rhode Island or in Washington on a horse ranch.     
    The next day I rode at least 30 miles (not on a horse) on a fabulous rail trail that took me through diverse neighborhoods, magnificent salt marshes and restaurants that serve up a "mess" of clams for lunch. Riding (rail trails, trains, and perhaps even horses) is time when your mind does wander and reflect.  As I stood in the salt marsh (below), I could not help but think about what a tiny little piece of the world I have explored.  No wonder I can't get published: I need to travel more! 
    The reward at the end of the journey was the biggest lobster I have ever shared!  It was big enough to split and still fill up two people (the oysters were pretty fabulous too) !  My heart was intent on having more steamers and mussels when I arrived, but the news story that morning about lobster got my mouth watering.  "They" were not (by the way) giving it away at Abbots in Noank; however, I hear they are "giving it away"... Stew Leonards, right here at "home"!  Hmm...perhaps we should "stay-cate" after our "va-cate" to help the local economy?

    CCS: Media Literacy

    I was thinking about media literacy as I walked early this morning.  I was thinking about how during our two-day trip to Rhode Island my husband accused ME of watching my PHONE navigator and almost missing the SIGNS for the ice cream store!  I was also thinking about how the PHONE navigator got us to Abbots in record time. I was thinking about the magnificent computer lab in my school and how teachers - all of us - need to use it more.  The computer lab, I concluded as I walked by the pond this morning, is not just for the computer teacher anymore!

    Truth be told, I was also thinking about how the rain washes all the "stickiness" from the air and how it gives us a fresh start.  I was also thinking about how important these "fresh starts" are to making all that we do as educators (elementary, middle school, high school teachers, AND college professors) more relevant and accessible to our students.

    Then, while drinking my coffee, I see this link to USA today on my blog friend Kevin's Twitter feed.

    So, for all of us who are no lucky enough to head off the the NCTE conference and "see" in person the "new directions" our profession is headed, I am passing along the USA article and also the links Mr. Baker's blog and his brand new published book that I hope to read  That's what I was reading about this morning on my tablet after I walked with my MP3 player before I headed to the computer to write this post!   

    Getting Started With Media Literacy: Easier Than You Think by Frank Baker
    the USA article that spurred my morning's thinking
    The Media Literacy Clearinghouse
    Frank Baker's blog with "hundreds of ideas, resources, lesson plans and more about media literacy and how it fits into all subjects and disciplines".
    Frank Baker's Publications
    a link to Mr/ baker's publications
    Frank Baker's twitter link

    Saturday, July 14, 2012

    Pinterest vs 3x5 cards

    Back in the ol' days, when I was a newbie teacher, we collected teaching and classroom organization ideas on 3x5 cards - no kidding. We read magazines, like Mailbox, that are now available in a far more expanded digital form.  Many of those magazines no longer exist - because we can get SO MUCH MORE so much faster AND organize it out here on the digital universe. 
    This morning, I found Pinterest.  I must admit I thought Pinterest was for crafting ideas until I followed a few links.  Now, I have had a change of mind because - THIS SITE IS AMAZING! 
    Check out just a few links to start!
    I long ago stopped collecting 3/x cards with ideas but most of them were floating around on papers or in files on my computer.  NOW, I know where to put and share ideas.  The part that I like the best about all this?  The sharing.  Teaching is no longer a closed door operation.  We are putting ourselves out there every day.  As the research is finding, it's interpersonal as well as intrapersonal skills in the 21st century!  And, although a fabulously decorated classroom does NOT equal effective teaching, many of us (me included) need to do a little more "decorating" in order to assure our classrooms reflect what we plan to make happen in them!
    So if you happen to read this blog and if you have a pinterest "wall" please let me know so I can follow you!   
    Pinned ImagePinned ImagePinned Image

    Friday, July 13, 2012

    Asus Post

    I'm off to Rhode Island today and checking on my epad posting skills. So what did I just finish reading? True Colors by Kristin Hannah. A great beach read. Well written. The characters are clearly developed and believable.  Add a cup of English Breakfast tea and I call it a good start to the day.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012


    So at the end of my "reading" this morning that actually means I follow a few links from Education Week (some thing I do far less often during the school year) I came across this blog.  I really appreciate the attention this blog is giving to making the CCS REAL, PRACTICAL and meaningful to daily classroom planning. The CCS make you stop and think.  This blog is definitely one we should all bookmark and read in order to be effective teachers in the 21st Century.

    The Changing/Unchanging Literacies of Our Times: A REPOST

    I spent yesterday thinking about preparing teachers for the 21st Century.  Then, I wake up to read THIS visual literacy post on literacy.  It's enough to make you stop and reflect on your teaching and on students' learning.  As our view of literacy has broadened , so should our perspectives of teaching and learning. 
    The Changing/Unchanging Literacies of Our Times

    Thanks Kevin for sharing

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    Cognitive, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Skills Needed: Some Research

    What have your been reading this week? Here is some interesting research.  This article was published on July 10, 2012 by Sarah Sparks in Education Week and concludes that 21st Century learning demands a mix of abilities.
    The modern workplace and lifestyle demand that students balance cognitive, personal and interpersonal abilities... Americans get about 7 to 11 percent return in higher career earnings based on their years of schooling, and cognitive skills don't explain all the effects of schooling...."

    While this is not necessarily a "news flash," there is really something we can take from this research and use to make our classrooms places of relevant learning.  Our students need opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills we want them to learn in real life-like settings.  They need to work together and they need to work independently with opportunities to reflect on their learning and thinking.  Translated into classroom practice: think literature circles.  Here are some links to expand on your thinking:

    From My Writing This Summer: A Chapter

    I've had this story kernel going for a while.
    My main character is a little girl who loves books
    but not exercise.  She has some of my characteristics but is her own person!
            You already know I am really good at reading. spelling and math but not so good at athletic stuff like bike riding.  Nobody ever really seemed to care about bike riding, except my cousin Max, who's the same age as me but very different, and he could ride a two-wheeler when he was three.  (He can also play basketball with high school kids and sometimes wins, so he is super athletic.)  This spring, everything changed a lot with exercise and especially with bike riding.  As you know, my mom has been on an exercise kick.  She gets up and walks with her music every morning even when it rains and sometimes, she says, she runs a little bit.  She says it's not only good for her head, she is also setting a good example for me and my sister.  My mom talks a lot about going to the park, kids playing soccer (remember, I hate soccer), and wants us to get outside and run around every night!  She is getting a little bit too crazy about all this exercise stuff if you ask me! 
          Anyway, for her birthday, Mom asked for a bike and my dad got her a bright red bike with a bike-behind for my sister because she is only 4.  My dad also got ME a bright irange bike with training wheels, and it wasn't even my birthday. I wish I didn't but I hate that bike.  I am afraid every time I sit on it.  It shakes from side to side.  I think I am going to fall off and break my neck!  Some days, my mom lets me sit on the front steps in the afternoon when she takes my sister for a ride, but LOTS of days, she makes me go with her for at least one "lap" around the block.  I really hate it.  I really am afraid.  My bike wobbles from side to side and it makes my teeth hurt. I really hate it.  
          Saturday mornings are usually the worst because there is no way out of the bike riding exposition.  She's so excited it's sickening and Victoria acts like she is going on vacation and maybe she is.  She just sits in that tiger cage of hers and relaxes.  "Just cool your jets,"  I want to say to them, but instead I just drag my feet and waste time getting ready to go.  The only one who escapes these bike riding Saturday mornings is my dad.  He takes a nap while we are gone because he doesn't have a bike.  Personally, I don't think he wants a bike and maybe, he doesn't even like bikes because he is a lot like me! 
         Anyway, this morning, it was a rainy Saturday which made me very happy.  I stayed in my pajamas and read all the picture books in my room  Victoria kept wanting me to read to her and sometimes I did.  I was just happy to have a fun day doing what I love with nobody bugging me.  My Auntie (Max's mom) called and she and my mom talked a long time.  I think they talked about bikes the whole time! Boring. When my mom got off the phone, she was so excited.  "Tomorrow," Mom said, "we are going to go on a very special bike ride." I didn't ask any questions.  I don't want to know the answer! 

    You're Still The One

    He didn't ask what I was thinking, he asked what I was going to write. He knows that I now bravely write slices of life.   

    As we were riding our worn out ol' bikes over a worn out ol' rail /bike trail the other day, I was thinking. It was a long ride and so I had a lot of time to think. This sharing your life and the commitment of a long-term relationship  is challenging and yet among the most amazing relationships. We could not have envisioned this journey when we were at the beginning of the path all starry-eyed and eager. There have been two, very different careers that have ebbed and flowed at different times (perhaps that is a good thing). There are two very different families, whose needs and challenges have ebbed and flowed at different times (perhaps that is a good thing, too).  There are two very wonderful and different offspring whose needs and wants have ebbed and flowed as they have launched into their own spheres of the universe (a good thing).  There are differences in opinions and differences in desires, some small and some huge.  Sometimes, we are strongest together when we're doing what fulfills us individually.  It's joy-filled and empowering weeks solving problems and enjoying life - together.  At times, it's frustrating and exhausting weeks when we long to just run for the hills.  It's sunshiny-wonderful moments and moments of grueling difficulty.  Some days, you are at the top of a glorious mountain and other days you are at the bottom of a huge well.  Sometimes, you just have to agree to disagree knowing that time will make whatever the issue less significant. There is something wonderful that fills your deepest crevices with happiness and something no human can image when you promise, "I will."    There is something pretty special about the thoughts that bounce in your head while reflecting about the bumpy journey on a rocky trail!  There is something amazing about how dripping with sweat and with dirt in every crevice, your mind is quietly singing along...

    Monday, July 9, 2012

    The river still runs through it


     Long ago, I traversed this path
     Eager anticipation of the next mile
     We rarely stopped to fully admire the beauty 
     The river ran throughit even then
     Nourishing fields and supporting life. 
     The bridge, the bikes and I are all worn,
     This river is still going strong.

    Reading Comprehension Difficulties

    If you read this blog and you are a teacher or a teacher wanna-be, you know that our mindset is an important factor in reading comprehension.  So for the rest of you non-teachers, let me just say that I have some proof that our mind can play important roles in what we think we read!
    On Friday, I sent an invited post I had written to the Nerdy Book Club.  I was "pumped" because the chance to be published on such as awesome site is about as good as it gets for a Nerdy Book person like me (remember I met my husband in an library - making me as nerdy as it gets) !  Then, Saturday morning, I got a note from Colby, one of the moderators at the Nerdy Book Club, inviting me to the publication of my post.  I was like a kid on Christmas morning. 
    Anita Ferreri
    When: Thu Aug 9, 2012 (EDT)
    Who: Nerdy Book Club Guest Blogger*
    Going? Yes - Maybe - No
    Now, I am sure you read that the publication date is AUGUST 9th, but guess who was so excited that they READ it as July 9th and was excited beyond belief for 2 days?  Good guess! 
    PS. Set your calendars now! 

    Saturday, July 7, 2012

    Thinking about next year? Think about Literacy Cafes

    I just read this post and love this idea

    I love the idea of celebrating books and bringing them the life in classrooms. 
    In the context of the new standards, we want our classrooms to be environments where our students thinking deeply about texts and this works along those lines. 

    For more information about the books and caf├ęs that Alyson Beecher has done, check out her blog:

    Wow - I can't wait to try this! 

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    Bridge Over Vast Divide

    Cain and Able are the "poster children" for the the story I am about to tell; however, the tale is not just the story of siblings, it is a tale of how love and hate lie next to one another in the human soul threatening human relationships.
    This tale begins long ago when they went separate ways fueled by words spoken under the most stressful of times.  While their love was intense, so was their need to be recognized and respected.  It was a separation they both thought would bring them peace; however, it was a separation that eroded their souls and made loving unconditionally difficult.  Those around them saw the sadness in their eyes.  It was a separation that slowly allowed hatred to grow like a cancer in their hearts. Those around them saw their great sadness creep into their lives.  Those who knew them both, hoped time would heal their wounds and that one of them would open the door to a reconciliation.  Those who knew them both, watched with sadness as time went on and no one budged.  Yet, how could they admit they wished the words had never been said. 

    One day, many years later, those who knew them both connected on the internet's interactive web. Those peripheral connections grew and morphed into new relationships where caring and commonality were clearly evident in spite of the vast divide.  One day, many years later, those who knew them both realized that while they could not change the past, they could change the future.  And they did. Over the years that ensued, there were shared stories and glimpses of lives that were connected by love.  Yet, those who knew them both could not stop the hate, fueled by the need to forgive and forget, that grew in their souls.

    One day, many years later, after those whose words had fueled the divide had passed on, someone attempted to retell the story of the vast divide.  There were questions about who might have said what and about why they did not try to settle.  We'll never if someone tried and their attempts were rebuked but we do know that their progeny have built a bridge over the great divide connecting those whose roots are deeper than words.  It was likely a move fueled by an awareness that humans are measured not by what they achieve but rather by how they live their lives.

    This short story ends with the message about the power of words from a song .
    If I could turn back time...
    I'd take back those words that hurt you...
    I don't know why I said the things I said... 
    Words are like weapons they wound sometimes.

    Thursday, July 5, 2012

    What do teachers do? They canoe, too.

    Ever wonder what teachers do when the kids all leave for the summer? This is the seventh in a series of posts (I don't know how many) about what teachers do during the summer. After book sorting, clutter cleaningreflecting, curriculum mapping , they continue to engage in fun activities like camping, traveling or in my case, canoeing. 
    As you can see, it was quite an undertaking to get the big ol' canoe on top of our compact sized car; however, we did and it was indeed a "seaworthy" vessel as we explored our local pond.   It was not quite as flashy as the sailboat we watched traverse the lake; however, it was still a pretty wonderful afternoon relaxing, exploring and enjoying nature's gifts. 
    There is an 'ol family story (one member of my family has been known to tell) about the "best" days to be a boat owner suggesting that the first and the last days are supposed to be the best! While this ol' canoe has been around for a few years, I hope to prove that ol' family story wrong and make more happy memories aboard our "boat." 
    And, to the family member who stores this vessel at our place, thanks! 

    Natural Fireworks

    While the Macy's sponsored fireworks (that we watched on TV) were amazing, 
    the fireworks nature provided us were certainly among the best.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2012

    Fourth of July Memories

    Like everyone who knew "Kitty," I loved her.  She came into my life as a "package deal" when I chose to share my life with her son; however, I would have chosen her to be a friend if our lives had merged under different circumstances.  She was born on the Fourth of July; however, she was more than a "firecracker."  She was the "pilot light" that kept her family strong and together.  The  timing of her birth always made the holiday special and meant that a family celebration was in order.  There would be a picnic, somewhere, along with watermelon, blueberries and some form of a cheesecake (covered with berries) to commemorate the day.  She would not have been happy to wake up to rain on the Fourth of July (as we did today); however, she would have been optimistic for the potential the day held and she would have been  "tickled pink" with the blueberry muffins I am about to make! 

    Tuesday, July 3, 2012

    A Brave, New, Wonderful World

    We discussed gifts, but not gifts wrapped in bows like you are thinking.  We talked about the gifts others dream of having, like a sense of beauty and and eye for creating.  We talked about how these gifts could sustain life.  Then the discussion morphed to one about selling ourselves in a new world, virtual marketplace, on the Internet.
    "It's scary," she said quietly, "putting yourself out there for others to evaluate."
    "I know that," I responded, "the first time I linked to Slice of Life I was scared to death. But, it gets easier and the feedback from others will fuel your resolve, just you wait and see."
    Thoughts whirled through my head as I reflected on the significance of your conversation.  All that we do, the first time, from going to kindergarten, to heading for college, starting a new job, agreeing to share our lives with scary, in the beginning, because it is new and outside of our experiences.  It creates the sense of angst that we feel in our bones and teeth because it changes the way we "stand" before others.  I know, I am doing that right now.  While it's not exactly the brave new world of Adolf Huxley (thank goodness), it is a new world that challenges us to bravely embrace new ways of working, living and loving.  With all its challenges, it's a wonderful world. 

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    Prayers, Dreams, Small Miracles

    I pray
    When I need a favor,
    I dream
    Of lives where peace,
    Love and harmony prevail
    I am thankful
    For small miracles
    Sunrises on the dock,
    Sunsets on the deck,
    Safe journeys to far away places,
    Safekeeping on the edge of disaster,
    Choosing to find joy amidst
    The challenges of our daily lives.

    Sunday, July 1, 2012

    Reflecting on the summer session

    One of my fantastic grad students who is now blogging at wrote a great reflection on the semester
    I am paraphrasing her words which pretty much sum effective reading instruction today -

    Interactive Storybook Reading
    Analyzing running records
    Work collaboratively with your peers
    Level cautiously
    Do guided reading
    Don't quiz
    Do small groups.

    About blueberries: Picking, reading and writing

    Ever wonder what teachers do when the kids all leave for the summer? This is the sixth in a series of posts (I don't know how many) about what teachers do during the summer.  After book sorting, they clean out the clutter.   Simultaneously, teachers are reflecting about the year.  Some days, they head back to school to review curriculum maps based on new ideas and mandates such as the CCSS.  Then, they clean their homes and start some projects,

    Some days, they do "fun" activities with their families such as picking blueberries.  "Just a few," was my mantra when whe headed into the fields; however, there were 8 pounds of blueberries in the bucket when we left the field.  Fortunately, there was no pre and post weighing of the customers! 

    You know you are a teacher when you are thinking about the  classic blueberry tale as you pop those warm blueberries into your mouth.  

    You know you've taught rhyming if the words to Jamberry (One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry) are swarming your head! 

    Then further down the row, as the heat of the day burns your neck, you're thinking about more poignant berry books.  As sad as the tale is, you can still, after many years, "see" the story unfold in your mind.   

    Then, you reflect on your own life a bit wondering if you took your own kids to pick blueberries enough when they were young.  You wonder why YOU don't stop to do this more often and why you missed strawberry picking this year.

    Later, your draft a chapter in your own book about the simple joy of picking blueberries and promise to make time to "pick berries" every season.