Thursday, February 26, 2015

Signs, signs, signs....

This weekend, the month-long writing every-single-day challenge kicks off; 
thus, it would probably be smart to "save" all these Grand Canyon epiphanies 
in order to fill up a month of writing!  
However, I'm going to consider posts prior to March 1st as my "warm up posts." 
Sort of like practice or preparation for the "big game."
I got SO excited when I first saw a sign about the Grand Canyon,
I took a picture of the sign!
Seriously, I was headed to one of the most incredible sights in America,
A place I knew had indescribable wonders;
Yet I took a picture of the highway sign.  
I suspect I have spent too many hours on Interstates!

Later on the trail.
We got excited when we got to Skeleton Point.
Clearly, I am no skeleton" even after having hiked for hours and hours and hours
in the blazing sun carrying a backpack!
Yet, the naming of the point on the trail was significant. 
I suspect that long ago prospectors often "kicked the bucket" on the way down
through the long, hot, lonely switchbacks of the desert canyon.
Later, their skeletons were all that was left.
We brought a lot of water and some electrolytes to prevent such a fate.

Then there was this sign on the way down.
It indicated a long way to Phantom Ranch,
Yet it was 6 hours into our journey.
We wanted to believe the sign was wrong.
Could we make it to the Phantom Ranch before dinner?
We were not sure.
We were scared.
We tried to pick up our pace.
There were no more breaks.
We were focused and determined.

We made it,to the Ranch, late.
(They were kind and let us eat dinner)
We depend on signs.  
Not just when we are hiking in the desert canyon, 

I guess, as I reflect, 
I took picture of signs because I realized 
Signs are indicators of where we are, 
Where we have been,
Where we are,
Where we are going.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Learning, On Vacation: The First Lesson

Last week, we were on a mid-winter, planned-supposedly-to-save-fuel-vacation-from-school.  We left in a puff of smoke as the guns filled with deicing gases did their jobs to make take off safe.
We landed in "another world" where the sunshine burned our necks and happily stripped off layers to reveal short sleeve shirts!

We hiked a long, long, long time to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on day one.  Then, we hiked a very long, long, long, long time back to the rim at the top on the next day.  I have so, so many small moments (posts) to share about the trip (It's a good thing we are on the edge of SOL month) but with re-entry into life challenges and stacks of mid-term papers to grade, I will share just one small "learning" from our many hours of hiking.

Do you remember those "bad girls" from HS? You know the ones who "put down" those of us who were less than perfect?  The ones who said things to make themselves look/feel better? Well, guess what, they are still out there.  They are still in the Grand Canyon.  Let me explain.

So we were halfway up on our return 10 mile trip up the steep and treacherous canyon when we met up with a forest ranger named "Betsy."  My hiking partner had sprained her ankle on the way down and we were taking our time. Slow and steady had been our motto.  We had taken our time on the way down, too.  We were keeping a slow but steady pace, at least in my opinion.

 "You don't look like you are going to make it," she said behind a mask ostensibly to keep the dust out of her face.  "You should plan to stay at the rest stop near me," she said, "you'll never make it out at the pace you are going. I will be back in 3-4 hours to check on you and find a tent.  You will never make it out at the pace you are going"

We really were taken back by her comments.  We did the math and made some plans as we ate a focused lunch.  Then, one of our bunk-house-mates,from the night before, who was also headed out of the canyon, on the same trail, and eating lunch nearby commented, "You are listing to the left, that is not a good sign. I'm concerned for you."

We took their words and comments under advisement, but we also searched our own hearts and souls.  Yes we could make it, ONE FOOT, and THEN THE OTHER, was the way out of the canyon and back to our old lives.  We headed north through the long and seemingly endless switchbacks out of the canyon and into the world of shoe-wearing-souvenir-buying-Grand Canyon sunset observers.  It took us a bit longer than others, but we made it, one step at a time.

The lesson, one of many I took from the Canyon, is this: Our words are mighty powerful weapons. We can use them to encourage or discourage, praise or purge, support or discourage. While the images of the Canyon are etched into our memories, Betsy's words will not be forgotten either.  Truth be told, we probably pushed ourselves to prove her wrong!

I will never tell a student he/she is half done.  I will ask them instead,, "How are you doing? Can I help you in any way?"  I don't think the IRS will let this one slide through (so I won't bother trying to take a tax deduction for the trip), but I really did learn something(s) on vacation! Just like in the Tortoise and the Hare, slow and steady wins the race.  We made it -one foot and then the other, one switch back and then another, all the way to the top as the sun set on the Arizona desert. We made it in spite of the words that were used as weapons, one foot and then the other, before the sun set on the canyon.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Check out @edutopia's Tweet:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sunday, February 15, 2015

SOL#2015 Good Luck: You're Gonna Need It!

Last February, overwhelmed with awareness that our days are limited and determined to find joy in our days, we decided to go on a grand adventure!  We made reservations, promised to remember, and looked ahead.

This February, overwhelmed with endless snow and care-giving, fully aware of bad knees, crackling backs, aging bodies, and ebbing energy, we could have reconsidered this plan and headed to a pampering spa, instead. Yet, the pull of this grand adventure was stronger than the many reasons to not go.

Those "two little words" reverberated in my head as I got new hiking boots.  I went with beautiful blue ones, rather than sturdy leather ones.  These new books will likely not last a lifetime, but I will likely not be headed on this adventure again.  So, "Why not," I thought.  I went with a bright red day pack rather than use my old gray one thinking, "Why not?"  When I had all but given up hope on the care-giving front, some divine intervention must have taken place and a new care-giver arrived on the scene ready and able to provide mid-week support. "Why not?" I said to myself once again. Even as another ominous storm appears to roll up the coast threatening our flight, there were forecasters assuring us that it would be only 1-3.  So, "Why not?" I said to myself once again

So, when SOL posts pop Tuesday morning, I will be off on a grand adventure. I have those new boots, poles and even a head lamp (my partner in crime says I will need this) packed.  We have water bladders (? seriously), waterproof jackets, ice packs, and knee braces. We'll also pack a few books, because after all we are "Reading Teachers" and that is what we do when we are on "vacation." We're as ready as we will ever be for this grand adventure.  Why not?

It helps to be a bit philosophical about this crazy, grand adventure. "People older than us have done thisHow bad can it be?"  "Life is filled with challenges and adventures, the grand and wondrous ones are the most scary and yet the most worthwhile."

As we prepared for this school-break, there was discussion of plans.  Usually I talk about cleaning closets and crafting.  Usually I sigh as I listen to talk of warm destinations and skiing adventures. This year I had plans that were a bit out of the ordinary and so we took a virtual hike!

One young student patted me on the shoulder as he left (probably for a week at Disney) saying, "Good Luck," and then adding, sincerely, with a smile, "you're gonna need it."  I smiled appreciating his concern but thinking to myself, "You have to take some risks along the trail of life if you want to live life to its full potential. Why not hike the Grand Canyon this week?"

PS If I can find the guts to carefully take out my camera along the trail, I'll take some pictures to prove that we make it.  If not, you'll just have to "trust" my stories just like I'm trusting that I'm gonna be fine!  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sharing a Post About Biography Resource Texts

I was pretty excited when I came across this post by Hannah Hudson (We Are Teachers) the other day as my colleagues and I have been working on a biography genre unit.  Einstein, Sagan, Roget and Malala Yousafzai among some amazing stories of real people with big ideas.  e 
Star Stuff by Stephanie Roth SissonI Am Albert Einstein

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

#SOL2015 Just Say No to Meetings

"I missed you," she smiled as she made her way towards me and offered a bear-hug greeting.
"I missed you, too," I responded, meaning it, even though we had read together just two days earlier!

"Where were you?" she asked as if I had been on an extended spring break excursion!
"I was in a meeting yesterday," I said making a sad face.
"Too many meetings," she said shaking her head as she headed down the hallway. "You should just say, NO!"
Image result for just say no
I smiled as I walked behind her. I had only missed one session, but she had noticed!  I quickened my pace and caught up with her so as not to waste a minute.  Our conversation turned to letters and sounds as we headed up to the Reading Club Room.  

As we talked, I wondered, would she remember the story we had worked on two days before?  Would she still be able to blend those sounds into words as she had begun doing during that last session?  

As we walked, I thought about the benefits of PD..
As we walked, I smiled because as the old saying goes, "Out of the mouths of babes!"  
As we walked, I smiled thinking of that old slogan, long ago, determined to protect our kids from substance abuse!  

"Can we read now?" she asked.
"Yes," I smiled, "we can read, now."   

Monday, February 9, 2015

11 Alternatives to 'Round Robin' (and 'Popcorn') Reading

11 Alternatives to 'Round Robin' (and 'Popcorn') Reading

Independent Reading Time

It's hard for me to believe that anyone would question the need for and value in Independent Reading time at every grade level! For beginning readers and for struggling readers, there is also the need for guided practice that will support their growth in both text complexity and strategies, just like there is for beginning baseball, basketball, and tennis players.  For all readers, there is a need for discussion where the ideas and inferences of others can encourage us to rethink our own stance, just like there is a need of watching films and rethinking plays for developing lacrosse, soccer, and football players. As coaches know, you have to play lots of games in order to be strong and capable players.  As coaches or reading, we know it takes lots of practice to become readers who effectively learn from and enjoy print texts.

Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, wrote an interesting post defending independent reading recently.  Miller's mantra is to encourage her middle school students to read 40 books a year; thus, it is not surprising that she is critical of those studies that do not conclude independent reading is all that valuable (eg. 2000 NRP). This time, though, she quotes research supporting independent reading.  It's out there.  Lots of it.  You have to read if you want to be an efficient, fluent reader, have good vocabulary and comprehension 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

@celebratelu Forces That Keep Me Balanced

Last week, I never got around to posting. I was busy, stressed, consumed with elder care and trying, hoping and praying that the storm bearing down on us would be easier (on them) than the week before, yet, I thought of how I really had a celebrate post in my crazy life experience! This week, even though there is another storm bearing down on us, things are brighter and a wee bit easier.
So this week , I want to CELEBRATE some of the "forces, inspirations, and caregivers" that make me smile, even when I feel differently, and keep me balanced over the rocky terrain.
  • Family and Friends all of FB and Twitter
I joined FB and Twitter, initially, at the urging of family and friends and yet I could never have imagined the power of an image of a great game, a pile of snow, or of a pup napping on a cold dark, dreary morning.  Keep them coming!

  • Humans of New York
I am not sure when these links started showing up on my FB page, but there are stories of teachers, people, leaders and humans that are changing the world one action at a time every day.  It's a reminder that everything we say and do matters.  It's a reminder, to me, to look beyond myself.  

  • StoryPeople by Brian Andreas
I am sure where my links to Story People began (thanks Sandi) and since I love a catchy line, a powerful image created by words, and a good short story, I am grateful for these images and ideas that filter in through FB to make my think and smile.

  • Home Health Care Providers like Senior Helpers
At times in our lives, we need a little help.  Asking, accepting, and acknowledging the need are all challenging and I don't think I will be a roll model of what to do when I am lucky enough to get to that stage of life; however, like tests and taxes, aging is part of life!  I am VERY grateful for a new caregiver who has joined my circle of support.  She listens, cleans, cooks, and is there for my mother now.  Everyone is happier and I get to be a daughter, again! 
  •  Ruth Ayers and Two Writing Teachers
I am very grateful for these writing forums that "give me permission" to take a few minutes and write because even though it took me a long time to practice what I preach, writing really is our link to reading, thinking and comprehension (of our always complex lives filled with many intersecting identities).

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

#sol2105 You deserve it

Characters: Mother, daughter
Scene 1: the living room

"You deserve it," I had said many times.  "Dad would want someone to help you like you helped him for so many years," I implored more times than I could count.

"Nobody does things the way I want them too" she said sternly more times than I could count.  "I want to paddle my own canoe for as long as I can," she added so many times that I could have said the words before they were uttered.

"I'm trying," I said many times, "but you deserve more.  You deserve someone who can be here for you. You deserve someone to help you clean and shop. You deserve the help so you can enjoy living here in your own place."

"You try," she admitted many times, "but you don't clean the way I want you to and when you go to the store you don't know what I want.  You are not me," she said many times, "even though I do appreciate what you do for me."

"Then, let's try," I asked, "to find someone who will be your hands and legs."  

"I don't want someone hanging around here all day telling me what to do," she said sternly "If I need some help, I will tell you."  

Characters: Mother, daughter
Scene 2: the living room

"I decided," she said finally, "I need a little more help than you can give me.  I know you try," she acknowledged, "but with all your meetings, I need more than you can give me.  I wish you didn't have so many meetings but everyone has to work, that is just how it is."

"What a good idea," I suggested trying hard not to contain my excitement or hopefulness.  .  

Characters: Mother, daughter
Scene 3: the living room

"It was a great day," she said sounding tired by happy.  "I need a little more help than you can give me.  I wish you didn't have so many meetings but you have to work, that is just how it is.  When I was talking to the kids," she said looking seriously, and I knew she was referring to the grand kids (who are really smart, young adults), "they said they think I deserve someone to help me like I helped Grump for so many years. I think they were right.  They said no one will do things exactly my way, but they thought we could find someone who would have time to clean the right way.  They were right."

"Wow, they had some good ideas," I smiled, trying hard not to contain my excitement or hopefulness.  .  
It really doesn't matter WHO comes up with the solution.  Perhaps, those grand kids knew I needed a bit of help?  Perhaps, ideas "taste" better when they are served up by the grand kids.  Perhaps, we both deserve a bit of help.    

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Reading Took Me to Poetweet

Thanks to Kevin, I once again got sidetracked on my mission to finish a grad school class power point!  Well in theory I can blame him but on the other side of the coin I was focusing my lecture/class on how reading and writing lead you places!  So, in essence I was doing what I will be talking about!

Here is Kevin's find:

It's called POETWEET

While it's really a bit of a scramble of words taken from random tweets that might or might not be related, it was fun and I did it a few times to see the infinite way the computer app played with MY words.
While it MIGHT actually suggest that poetry is RANDOM words thrown together in grammatically relevant forms, it MIGHT have SOME value in teaching students what poetry IS and what it is IS NOT.
It is also just a fun way to promote reading and writing.

Yet, fnding a random word poetry generator on the same morning that Google features Langston Hughes as it's Google Hero is a bit of a "stretch."  Yet, I certainly have evidence that questioning our thinking and reading take up "places."