Sunday, August 31, 2014

Staying Positive in Trying Times

Teachers: Staying Positive in Trying Times

This article, by Heather Wolpert Gawson, was published on Edutopia last year. It's one of the reasons I follow Edutopia even though I cannot possibly read everything they publish!  It's a sad, sad story about a teacher, a mentor, an innovator whose positivity faded away. We all know people who have suffered this fate.  If we've taught more than 2 days, we all know some of the feelings of anger and frustration described.  

Gawson wrote, her " heart was in the job, but that heart [had been] broken after years of professional disappointment....her talents were never tapped or appreciated..."   I've thought about those lines many times in the past year.  Certainly, I know about the feeling of being "unappreciated."  Certainly, I have watched teachers backed into corners and pummeled into submission.  Certainly, I have witnessed the impact of negativity.  

Truth be told, I found myself headed down the old negative path one day last week when my computer failed (again), there were no working printers in the lab, my desk was piled high with papers, and my room was still a mess! Fortunately, I  stopped and reflected on the day, the path and the road out of my "hole."

Gawsona had a few suggestions about how to avoid that giant, horrible pitfall that has eaten so many of our colleagues.  They are good ones. I'm going to hold tight to each one. Each one could be a tee shirt logo! Grab one or two.  You might need them this year!  

1. Pinpoint what you love about education and live in it.  Enjoy your students.  
2. Find others who can offer solutions, not just an ear.  
3. Pick and choose the news you read  Stop reading about the tests if it makes you crazy! .
4. Know your limits. Say "no" sometimes!  
5. Never close your door to collaboration. 
6. Be supportive of one another. 
7. Pick your battles. 
8. Don't get sucked in. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

#celebratelu2014 A week filled with Looking Ahead

Earlier this month, I did a 7 day Positivity Challenge on Facebook writing about 3 things that were good for 7 days.  I found it uplifting in spite of my August funk and quickly connected to why I do this Celebrate each Saturday, thanks to Ruth Ayers inspiration!

This week I celebrate Smart Phones, New Friends, and Looking Ahead.

1. I celebrate my new phone. My old Droid with the cracked screen had become possessed and begged for retirement.  I did have to give up my unlimited use of data on my own plan, but now, people can call and I can answer! Plus, I can text, monitor Twitter, and even answer emails again.  Best of all, when I access the driving directions on Maps, it takes me to streets that really exist rather than saying, "turn left on East Manchester Grove" when I am in the middle of an interstate! 

2. My husband also upgraded to his FIRST ever smart phone.  At first he was excited because texting became FAR easier as he could abandon the multiple hitting of keys to find letters. Then, he realized it took great panoramic pictures and amazing videos.  Last night, he announced he answered an email on his phone.  Welcome to the 21st Century! I suspect we will need that extra gigabyte of data they gave us as a "thank you" for making our phone bill bigger!    

3. We have lots of new students in my school this year. They have moved from the big city, small towns, apartments, farms and places far away/  People are choosing our district!  That is a sign that even though our school is far from perfect, we are on a positive trajectory!    

4. Even better than all those new kids are the NEW TEACHERS.  I am looking forward to their new ideas, energy, and enthusiasm for life and learning. I am lucky to still be around to learn from them. Plus, they can show me how to get my work email on my new smart phone!  

5. When the alarm goes off at 4:40 on Tuesday, I will not be happy!  I'll lay in bed thinking, ""The summer was too short" even though my vacation was much longer than most people could imagine!  The morning will be dark and most likely cold.  I will have had a fitful night sleep (always happens before the first day of school)! I will think about pulling the comforter over my head, but I won't. I will lay there for a few minutes and remember that my new back to school skirt (it's blue and lacy) and notebook (with the Steve Jobs quote) are waiting for me.  I will begin to feel the butterflies flapping in my stomach as I brush my teeth. I will feel the excitement build as I shower. I will likely leave a few minuets early as you never want to be late on the first day.  I will splurge on a coffee at DD (perhaps with pumpkin spice).  I will know that I am one lucky lady as I have the chance, again this year, to make a difference in the learning of children who find reading and writing challenging.  I really do have a lot to celebrate even as I THINK about Tuesday morning!      

Friday, August 29, 2014

Repost: End of the summer birthday

Some birthdays were easier to celebrate
Mom was born on Christmas,
There was always a celebration,
Her presents were wrapped in birthday paper.
His Mom's day was the Fourth of July,
There was always a celebration,
Blueberries, watermelon and hamburgers.
Barbara's day was earlier this week.
The memories are bittersweet,
We used to celebrate our days-apart-birthdays together.

It's easy to lose other birthdays,
As we engage in the busy process of living.
My Son was born at the peak of summer vacation,
It was hard to organize a friend-party.
My Daughter was born in the middle of field hockey,
Parent teacher conferences and hurricanes!

His day,
Is at the tail end of the summer,
After a month of many birthdays,
As football and other fall-family passions peak,
During his softball championships,
At the edge of the very busy first days of school,
It's hard to have a "full-on" celebration,
When your birthday is "misplaced." 

Yet, they are all special,
Commemorating the traversing of life's gauntlet,
Not to be forgotten or taken "for granted"
They are a time to do what brings us peace,
To celebrate life,
Even if there is no one else around,
Even if they are "misplaced." 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#sol2014 Walkway Over the Hudson Edition

We sat and watched,
Longer than we had planned,
Looking up through the maze of steel,
Watching cotton puffs that filled the sky,
Drift ever so slowly past
The old rail bridge spanning the Hudson.  
 We focused on the glass box,
It groaned under the stress of bikes and people,
Then it crept up and down those cables,
Ever so slowly.
Smiling people loading and unloading.
"Wanna try it?" he asked.
We entered slowly, cautiously,
Doors locked, the ascent began,
Past strong legs 
Planted in the Hudson,
Long ago transporting trains,
Connecting people.
 We went 21 stories in 90 seconds.
Right into those puffy clouds.
Emerging victorious
As if we had 
The biggest roller coaster on the Boardwalk
 Some worried when they talked of 
Restoring the old rail bridge.
"The costs, the risks, the dangers," 
They predicted.
 "The views, the history, the exercise,"
Is what we have.

Perfect for walkers, bikers, hikers, 
Accessible for strollers, wheelchairs, 
Entertainment for the young and old,
Available to the rich and the poor,
A magical, surreal Slice of Life
In the Hudson Valley
Walkway Over the Hudson State Park

  • The first train crossed Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge in 1888. 
  • At the time, it was the longest bridge in North America.
  • It was the first bridge across the Hudson River between Albany and New York.
  • It carried freight trains and people, including students and shoppers from New Paltz to Poughkeepsie's famed Lucky Platt’s!
  • During World War II the bridge was painted black to make it less visible in the event of an attack. 
  • The fire that destroyed the tracks was probably started by a spark from a train’s brakes on May 8, 1974.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Welcome Back: What did you do this summer?

For those in education, 
"How was your summer?"
Rolls off the tongue,
Those first words to each other.
Off the pen.
The dreaded first essay
That first assignment:
If I'd gone to Europe, 
There'd be too much to say.
Too many "small moments" to share.

If I'd stayed home,
Watched movies,
Read books,
Who'd care?

"It was good," 
I'll respond again this year.
Ever grateful that I chose the profession
That assures prolonged summers.
Knowing that so many others are envious.

I won't bother those with details of 
Dreams, Hopes, Prayers,
Trips to Europe, 
Backpacking tours of Nepal,
Oceanfront stays in Bali,
Expeditions to the South Pole,
All those stories are my own,
In my head.

I'll tell them of picking blueberries,
Snippets of love in the heat of the day,
Filling our buckets, hats, 
Eating our weight in warmed by the sun sweetness
That gushes in your mouth.
Toasting marshmallows under the Super Moon,
The warmth of the fire dwarfed 
By the power of family love. 
Sleeping under the stars,
Swarmed by mosquitoes, 
But not bothered,.
Snippets of View, Chew, Today,
What Not To Wear
Ice bucket tipping,
Great novel writing,
Great book reading,
Rocking on the porch
To the rhythm of summertime.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews

Everything you do, 
Every move you make, 
Every day,
Like the movements of the butterfly,
Makes a difference. 
It matters
We matter,
Each of us.
All of us..  
I guess I knew that.....
But I am grateful to have proof 
You can learn something every day, 
Even at my age!  
Thanks Deb Day.

8 Weeks of Free Teacher Resources for Back to School

#celebratelu The week when the butterfly hung around all afternoon

I’m once-again joining up with Ruth Ayres for her weekly link-up, Celebrate This Week, .HERE
after a summer-writing-blogging-link-up-break because I've noticed as I have been "lurking" over at Celebrate that reflecting and writing really does help me to focus on the joy, rather than other emotions, in my life!

1. This Summer.  It's been remarkably cool, calm, and quiet! I'm actually a little bored and a little ready to go back to school even though I cringed, rolled over, and said some not lady-like words when the alarm went off the other morning!  I'm grateful for the opportunity for another year shaping lives through the power of the written word.

2. His Phone.  My husband, finally got a smart phone this week.  His old, flip top, "dumb" phone (as he called it) still worked like a charm in spite of the fact that you needed to hit the key three times to write a "C" and so it was very hard for him to make this change.  Within an hour, he was excitedly sharing 180 degree panoramic photos and exclaiming the wonders of his phone-camera-computer-keyboard-computer-text friendly-WiFi ready-calculator strapped securing on his belt in a Gorilla case. "Did you know it finds itself when it gets lost?" he commented just a few hours later!  Once you move ahead into the 21st Century, you can't go back!    

3. The Story. I've written, revised, edited, cut, rewritten and reflected on my "book" this summer.  It's different and yet every time I reread, I find myself drawn into the story. I'm hopeful and optimistic it might just get somewhere someday!

4. The Butterfly My hopes, dreams and prayers do not always turn out exactly the way I hope, dream and pray; yet, when the largest butterfly I have seen in a very long time hung around all afternoon yesterday, I was confident that my hopes, dreams and prayers have been acknowledged.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Enjoy Life: Even If It's Not Perfect

enjoy life
I woke up with a cold, 
But I woke up.
I slept fitfully,
Concerned about loved ones,
Praying for a plan, 
But I have hope.
I had many messages to respond to,
Work to do,
Excel spread sheets to finish,
Syllabi to post,
Bills to pay,
Errands to run,
But I was able to do so.
I was worried about "nesting,"
The cobwebs, the dust-bunnies,
The start of school syndrome,
Meals frozen at home,
Pinterest worthy classroom envy,
But I have plans.
I woke up realizing the summer was almost over,
Yearning for a day at the beach, a trip to a spa,
Bike rides, hikes, time with family,
Yet, excited about the "new" year.
I'm a year older and still unpublished,
Still not near perfect, still learning,
Still praying for patience, tolerance,
But more hopeful than ever,
More sure I must rely on prayer,
More sure that I am not in control.
With more 
Aches, pains, gray-hairs and wrinkles,
I woke up
Assured that even though I did not get to Europe,
Even though I did not get to the beach,
Even though my clothes are still a bit too tight,
Even though my house is still not clean
Even though there are weeds in my garden,
Even though my life is still not in order,
I do have 
The promise of this day!  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mastering the Teaching Game

Mastering the Teaching Game

Over on Edutopia this week, Tomlinson shared a post, Mastering the Teaching Game.  It's a good one for this time of year as we "gear up" and "psych up" for a new year with new challenges and all the potential that new learning can offer.

I spent some time in the past few days setting up my room.  There is a lovely, inviting reading area and the charts and books are ready to go.  While it may not be Pinterest worthy, I think it looks inviting and enticing.....and I was proud of how it looks.....and thinking I was all set.....until I read this article and was reminded that we also need to prepare our HEADS and our HEARTS to teach......and to's not just about pretty spaces and images.....

This article, which you really should read, is based on a successful tennis coach, Coach Groeneveld, because as we all know, what teachers REALLY DO is to COACH learning!

"All human beings can achieve far more than they believe they can."
"Success comes from the desire to work hard to achieve a goal." 
"It's not enough to only teach skills."

"Make sure the player [student]takes responsibility for his or her decisions."
"Being a good coach [teacher]means dissecting the player's [student's] game"

"When there is resistance from a player [student], don't take no for an answer." 
"There's no single way to coach [teach]players [students]."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

So, what do babies need?

I was putting the finishing touches on a Powerpoint presentation about early literacy when this image popped into my social media feed.  I smiled at the image of this teeny-tiny reader (not just because she was reading a book I gave her) who is already well on her way to being a literate member of our society.  Just a couple of months ago she was a teeny-tiny preemie figuring out how to coordinate breathing, eating and sleeping; however, now, as she sits nestled in her Momma's loving embrace, she is reaping the benefits of the gift all babies need no matter what the circumstances of their birth: parents (and grandparents) who talk, sing, and read with her.  

The list of must have's for new parents is a long as the Mississippi and the controversies as to the best way to clothe, feed, diaper, bathe, entertain, train, sleep-train, potty-train, educate and otherwise care for little ones have fueled not only Great Debates among parents but also epic Mommy and Daddy Wars! Yet, there is one thing we can all agree that all babies need!
  Parents and Caregivers Who
Talk, Sing, and Read With Them

  • Early learning experiences are a critical element in life long learning for all of us.  
  • Early book reading experiences lay the foundation for enjoying stories and learning.
  • Early book reading experiences  lay the foundation for concepts about print, grammar and syntax.
  • Children born "too soon" as well as children born "on time" need caregivers who not only talk and sing with them but who also read and write with them.
  • It is never too early to start reading with children!  If you did not start before they were born or have not yet started, start today! 
  •  While your newborn may not understand the words, hearing your voice stimulates an interest in sounds, talking and the rhythm of language.  
  • The images and colors in books stimulate the brain.  
  • Later, reading stimulates imagination, language, and communication skills. 
  • Repeated readings of favorite stories helps children internalize a sense of story.
  • The interactions between the child and the reader is critical to getting the most our of the experience.
  • Talk about books before and after reading.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Edutopia share:8 Tips and Tricks to Redesign Your Classroom

I've been thinking about my space in recent days.... Tips and Tricks to Redesign Your Classroom
There is not a day that goes by without a Pinterest  explosion of ideas and images of the PERFECT classroom....and so I was GRATEFUL to see this post from Edutopia....a bit of a calming impact on the hysteria of creating the GREATEST and most ENVIABLE classroom......

From my own perspective....the space is important and it needs to be inviting....BUT REAL TEACHING has to do with the enthusiasm and focus of the teacher.....

JUST saying....

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Reaching ALL Readers (Sight, Phonics and other Approaches)

I've spent a good deal of my adult life guiding, supporting and helping others find the joy and wonder in the printed word.  Sometimes, learning to read appears to happen like magic; however, there were years of experiences that serve as a foundation to the miracle of reading! 

Sometimes, learning to read is hard; however, if parents and teachers carefully analyze a student's relative strengths and needs, all students can learn to read.    

For many students, the "need" is opportunities to learn the phonetic code.  Programs like Fundations have made their fortune out of teaching the code.  Learning the complex ways that sounds can work in English offers all of us the means to read words and ideas we do not yet know.  While that may not seem like something we need, it does allow us to read scientific terms as well as names and the ideas of others outside of our experiences.  Some findings suggest students with language, speech and articulation difficulties, including apraxia of speech, may benefit from this type of approach.

Yet for other students, the need is opportunities to learn a fund of sight words.  There is some research that suggests diverse students benefit from structured sight based approaches. Students with Downs Syndrome as well as students with significant hearing/speech/articulation difficulties may benefit from a fund of sight words that can serve as a base for their own understanding of the code. I wrote about some of that research in this article
Other students just find comfort in the predictable and repeated words that are found in sight word based programs such as these.
Some readers benefit from Language Experience approaches too!
Someresources to think about as we all prepare to return to school and face the need to teach ALL children to be readers!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Joy, an update

I've tried to do the OLW Challenge from TWT before, but until this year and I have never shared my word. This year, "my word came to me!" (as I shared in January) and I bravely decided it would be a public GOAL even if I failed in my journey to live with JOY in my heart
Some days it's been tough.
I could never have imagined that when those speed bumps of life popped into my path that that I would make an effort to find a way to hold onto JOY. Even when I have been worried-beyond-belief about others. Even when I have been mad-as a hornet at others.  Even when I have cried those silent tears of frustration, sadness, worry. Even when my prayers were heard, but not answered in exactly the way I would have wanted.  It hasn't been easy to choose joy every day.  Some days, it would have been MUCH easier to choose "Mad-As-Hell and Not Taking This Any More"  but I have tried to focus on choosing JOY amid the fears and tears. 
Some days it's easy.
I could never have imagined, back in January, that I would be celebrating a new pup in our family!    
I could never have imagined, back in January. that I would be planning to cap off the year with a big, joyous, dress-up, once in a lifetime type celebration of life!
Some day, it's surreal.   
I could never have imagined the POPE, of all people, would be talking about MY OLW!  SERIOUSLY, I almost lost my lunch when I read that HE said in a recent speech, that the secret to JOY was:

1. “Live and let live.” 
2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” 
3. “Proceed calmly” in life. 
4. “A healthy sense of leisure.” "art, literature and playing together with children"
5. "Sundays should be holidays." 
6. "Find jobs for all." “Dignity from one’s own labor"
7. Respect and take care of nature. 
8. Stop being negative. 
9. Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs. 
10. Work for peace.

Perhaps he reads my blog?

Friday, August 8, 2014

How to live and work effectively

 I'm a support teacher, 
Sharing classrooms and students.
I observe, I reflect
Thoughts on sticky notes.
Here are a few
That appear to impact
How to work effectively with
And live happily with
Laugh, Smile
Be fair, Be kind
Be nice
Don't boast
Think before you react
Protect, Trust
Respect property
Respect ideas
Respect words
Clean up after yourself
Admit when you are wrong
Overlook when others are wrong
Forgive and forget
Be patient
After I wrote this list, 
I thought it sounded kind of familiar was!  


Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Survival Guide for New Teachers - - Education Week Teacher

A Survival Guide for New Teachers - - Education Week Teacher

Taking over the faculty meeting, one idea at a time.

Over MOST of my career, I have seriously dreaded faculty meetings.  To sit and listen, at the end of a long day, to upcoming events and calendar items, in a stuffy room when there is SO much you need to do back in your room is just plain hard.  Plus , we are usually hungry, thirsty, need to find the rest room and have to call at least one parent! 
In recent years, it has been clear that my own administrators are trying to revamp faculty meeting time into real, valuable PD sharing opportunities. It certainly seems like the movement is not just in my building and flipped as well as creative use of those 10 hours a year seems to be more common than in past years.
@LisaMeade23 who blogs at
is certainly leading the way with her "faculty meeting smackdown" idea!

Now, truth-be-told, the idea of a smackdown scares me as we should be working together not "knocking down an opponent in a wrestling competition!"  Yet, we are a competitive lot.  We all want to do our best and to be at the top of the heap so putting a competitive spin on things does get our blood flowing.  

Lisa's idea was to have teachers sign up for 2-5 minute slots sharing ideas with their peers.  It sounds so simple and yet so profound at the same time.  It forces us (teachers) to look reflectively and critically at what we do well.  It forces us to think about our strengths and areas where we can grow.  If forces us to look inside and outside our rooms.  

If we were to do this in MY SCHOOL THIS YEAR, I would run like a mad woman to the sign up sheet and be eager to share how TWITTER, this wild and crazy medium of internet travel, has been the VERY BEST FORM OF PD I could have ever envisioned.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

close reading: snippets and resources

So, I've developing a grad course....and searching for resources.  Just in case this might interest a reader or two, I am sharing.  CLOSE READING RESOURCES

Flipping: Why?

The FLIPPED classroom and FLIPPED faculty meeting model has gotten LOTS of press lately!  It's an interesting phenomena....and yet it is the model we have used in colleges for many years.

While change is hard for ALL of us......there is something to think about in this model.    

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August in Snippets

It's clearly August.
Lots of birthdays, joy,
(18+ family, friends)
The sunsets are earlier, powerful,
Garlic is hanging, waiting,
School supplies fill Walmart
Expecting, hopeful,
My "in box" is filled with images:
So inviting, exciting,
A Bright and Minimalist Classroom        
Sometimes, however, 
I wonder 
Where are the fire inspectors!
         A "Natural Habitat" Classroom

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sol 2014 Google Chrome Gets Confused

I suspect its not just me, but Google Chrome has been watching me.... Images pop into my social media feed that are the same or sometimes similar to where I have searched!  I must admit that all this makes me think of the George Orwell book, 1984!  At times it is helpful and at other times, I wonder if I should evacuate from social media and save my privacy! The other day, the juxtaposition of images was one to remember!
First up was a link to a site about picking garlic.  It's time to harvest those beauties but many of ours still had green stems; thus I had Googled to find out what others thought we should do! I was actually glad to scoot over to this site, again, and read about their harvest!  I decided to "follow" the site as it might come in handy again.  PS We decided it was time to pick the garlic - a messy but fun job!


The next image was a link to an Oscar de la Renta dress at Bergdorf Goodmans.  I have never worn (and will never wear) a dress anything like this (even in my dreams) and I've never been to Bergdorfs - not the site nor the store!!  However, I recently went to the Nordstrom's site (perhaps that is the "poor" cousin) and looked at some dresses that were nice, and pretty fancy at least by the standards of this teacher-weekend-garlic-harvester, but not in the same league as this O-de-la-R number!! I laughed out loud as I thought, "Google Chrome, you are confused this time!"  The dress is a $11,900.00 (OMG!)!  I was looking for something under the $119.00 price point!  . de la Renta G  

Now I might have just laughed this event off, but then I noticed that Stacy had pinned the same image with a remark about wearing it in her dreams and wondered if Google Chrome was targeting teachers?  If so, then Google Chrome is really confused! Seriously, Google Chrome, you need to know:
                                           NO TEACHER has that kind of money....
                                                       Specially not in August!   

PS If I had THAT kind of money, I would give the money (not the dress) to my son, a teacher, as a birthday present :)  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Planning another trip

Last summer, 
We rode 25 miles on bikes,
Burned a quarter-zillion calories (more or less)
Basked in the lush, green scenery.
This summer,
We came back for an eating tour,
Consumed a half-zillion calories (more or less),
Noticed the green scenery, again.
This winter,
We're coming back
To consume the other half 
(of the zillion calories)
 And to celebrate,
It's light and bright,
Sometimes white, 
And full of joy, here!