Friday, December 30, 2016

Great Books For Middle Grade Readers

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

He Won the Battle, I Guess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 26, 2016

Twas after Christmas

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

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

Monday, December 19, 2016

#sol16 Mighty and Miraculous: Words Matter

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

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

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

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

Yes, our words matter.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

OLW: Persist

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

#sole2016 From here

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Smelling Memories

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

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

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

Friday, December 9, 2016

Through my window

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

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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

#Through MY lens

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

#sol16 Through Raccoon Eyes I See

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#sol2016 A Different Holiday

 I really wasn't sure IF I wanted to do anything?
I could watch the parade and eat turkey soup.
No guests, no holiday requirements.
No worries about icy driveways.
No welcoming far flung children, 
Parents, siblings, to my home.
I had not admitted the sadness, even to myself,
As I faced another,
Different holiday season.

Then, in a turn of events 
I could not see coming,
The stars aligned 
In an unlikely way.
I found myself 
Care-giving for my Aunt,
Who never wanted to do anything 
Other than watch the parade, or 
Eat a turkey sandwich
On that food and family filled holiday.

However, this year,
She was we joined not only by me,
But also,
By a great-niece she had not seen in many years,
A great-nephew she had never met,
A shedding dog with endless kisses,
A great-great niece, taking her first steps,
"Eating" her first Thanksgiving dinner.
Piles of roasted, not mashed, veggies,
Dressing, fresh from a box,
Homemade cranberry sauce,
Squeals, laughter and a
Football game on TV.

"Bye-bye," they waved, as the guests,
Exhausted from travel,
Plates, laden with food,
Pie, with a side of ice cream,
Walking all over the place,
Licking, smelling, the new place, 
Providing entertainment,
Headed on a long journey home, 
To bed or crib!

"It was the best Thanksgiving in at least
25 years," she sighed,
 As I helped her into bed
And thought how Out Of Her Comfort Zone
She must have been.
"That was fun!
I'll sleep well tonight!"

I smiled a happy smile,
As happy tears rolled
Down my cheeks,
 As I took care of dog hair
On the carpet,
Bits of corn 
On the floor,
The pile of dishes,
 We made.

"Families grow, suffer losses, 
Holiday tables and gatherings 
That is the way it supposed to be,"
I thought
Sadly at first but also
Remembering, happily
Those not with us 
Because they too were needed 
At other tables.
Remembering, loving, 
Those who have passed from Earth,
Remembering, sadly 
Those we have loved and lost.

"Thank goodness I stopped for those pies," 
I smiled as I sipped my end-of-the-day tea.
Some things do not change!


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Post Halloween in Classrooms

We were deep into a lesson that started with "shared reading" of the first few pages of The Surprise in order to engage my reluctant-to-read-texts-that-appear-hard first graders who were trick-or-treating 24 hours earlier.  They were fully engaged in the shared part of the lesson, so I felt comfortable that the syntactically predictable text was going to be readable for each of the readers around me as the lesson morphed into a "guided reading" lesson.  

Confidently, two of the readers became engrossed in the story and appeared eager to get to the surprise ending.  As I leaned in to hear the student to my left whisper read and asked a few questions about the text, the little reader in the middle reached over and quickly "tapped" the pages in the book where this little reader wrestled with words.

I gave him one of those "glances" that teachers use to replace words and he went right back into reading...or so at least I thought....for about 30 seconds...and then reached over and tapped his neighbor's book again.

So I gave him a glance but this time leaned over and asked what he was doing? 
"I don't know," he responded as he began whisper reading.  Yet, seconds later, he was tapping his neighbor's book again even with my attention and focus on him!

"What's going on," I whispered as I pulled his seat right next to mine? 

"I don't know," he shrugged this time looking a bit remorseful.

"You have to be respectful as your friends read," I reminded him.

"I think my hands are fulled with energy," he said sadly, "I can't keep them with me."

"What did you have for breakfast?" I asked already pretty sure I knew the answer.

"A candy bar, a Twix bar, gummy bears, and a couple of Starbursts," he smiled remembering the sugar laden post-Halloween splurge.   

There was no response and no "look" that could offer to help him get through the "sugar high" he was clearly experiencing. So I wrapped my arms around his and softly began sharing the reading with him.  At this post Halloween moment, this little reader would need a little more support in order to get to the Surprise at the end of the text.

At that post-Halloween moment, I was in concert with teachers and parents everywhere who had to give a little more, hold students a little tighter, and watch a little closer as our students recovered from that holiday where we scare them, rile them up, excite them, and fill them up on more candy than they could ever eat on their own.  

Fortunately, the next day, his candy had "disappeared" and he "had" to eat Cheerios for breakfast!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Sharpener

My mom was meticulous about "giving away" her things to people who would use them.  As a child of the depression, she abhorred waste and hated the idea that things with some life left in them would find their way into the trash.  Most important, however, was her desire for each of her children and grandchildren to have some things around that would serve as "Nan" reminders!  It's been almost a year since she passed away, and I do treasure a few glasses and some dishes I have as my reminders more and more.
Yet, it is an old pencil sharpener that she had on her desk for many years that has provided smiles and happy reminders during this year-without-her.  I'm going to sound like my mother, now, but they don't make things like they used to!  Seriously, even the $60 pencil sharpener I got at Staples a while back broke pencil points better than it sharpened them!   
In some strange way, it feels like my mom smiles every time I sharpen a pencil with my new-to-me 1980's era, early electric pencil sharpener!Panasonic Kp-77 Auto-stop Electric Pencil Sharpener - Excellent Condition

By the way, I found one like it on ebay....

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Getting through the fog and the hard parts

Over the past  year, my posts have been far and few between while I have struggled with how much to share of the challenges that have altered the small moments of my world.  How can write about the endless despair that has hung like fog over mind? However, there are moments when the fog abates and the wonderful small moments glare me in the eye.  The other day, as I screened students for "oral reading fluency," one student "gave" me a reminder to blog, so I can remember,  the incredible small moments in a teacher's life.

I asked this student to read from short passages of text for just a minute. The first few paragraphs were somewhat phonetically regular and the passages were awkward to read as controlled texts usually are.  But, this student "nailed" the reading in fluency, prosody and accuracy!

So mindful of our human need for acknowledgement, I leaned in to acknowledge her fluent and confident reading.  As I leaned in, so did she; however, she talked first.  "That really was not a good story, you know," she admonished me!  "You should get a better story for the next kid so he won't be bored like I was."

There were lots of things I could have said at that moment; however, I decided I needed to include this insightful 6 year old "in the loop."

"Thanks for telling me," I said softly, "I appreciate your feedback!"  She smiled from ear-to-ear ad skipped back (literally and figuratively) to class.

I'm not sure what else would transpire in that child's day; however, I am very glad she was in my "loop" that day.  If there is a central message in all of this saga it might be this:  we all need and want feedback - even if it is a "point of growth."   In addition, I am reminded that acknowledging the small moments of our lives is a powerful tool: it can help us see through the fog.

Friday, October 21, 2016

National Day on Writing

Yesterday was a "National Day on Writing"," and I MEANT to write!  I mean to write many, many days; however, I've been out of the "writing habit" so to speak and the less I write, the harder it is to find ideas about which to write! It certainly seems illogical, but this is the reason writing gurus have long said we need to write every day.  Writing, like reading, needs to be a part of every day so that we see ourselves as writers!

Besides, I had LOTS of excuses!  I had papers to read and pre-observation plans to write! I have not really done anything "exciting" at work or at home; thus, I had an excuse..... I had so much to do, I couldn't even find time for dieting or exercising!  

Yet, we all know my lame excuses were just that.  I really could have found time for writing, healthy eating and even some exercise....if I had tried.  And trust me, there were some pretty special small moments yesterday as I listened to about 101 students read lists of words and phonetically controlled stories.  Seriously, I SHOULD write a blog post about the first grader who quietly informed me that the phonetically decodable story I asked her to read really did not make much sense!

Instead of beating myself up for not writing yesterday, I'm going to take a page, so to speak, from the long-time diet writing/diet/exercise wars and re-commit to writing and using writing to not only remember but also to sort out and understand living and learning.  Even if YOU did not write/diet/or exercise yesterday, on the designated day, you CAN commit to writing/dieting/and or exercising today.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

First World Problems

The other day, amid the fall's early morning darkness, I pressed the key-less entry fob for my car, and nothing happened.  Nothing.  So, I pushed it again, and again, and again...and still nothing moved or beeped or bopped in the pre-dawn darkness of the driveway.
"Um.....," I said to myself as I headed back into the house to figure out next steps but in reality my mind wandered down the path if calling in "car fob won't work" to school and figuring out if AAA does car fobs while wondering where I would find a Mazda dealer and thinking I had better get another fob....
I was only in the house for a minute or two when I found the key hidden deep inside the fob..
A regular looking, yet never before seen by me, key fob had been resting and waiting, inside my bag, for the moment when it would be needed to work-in-an-old-school-way and ultimately take me where I needed to go!
Getting into the car was easy as the "key" hole, a rather old fashioned yet familiar to those of us who long ago drove cars with keys, was visible as I shone the flashlight at the door handle.  Yet, when I got INTO the car, I had another pre-dawn-panic-moment in the darkness of the driveway!
The car also has a key-less ignition!  
"Um...." I said to myself as I reached for the turn-on button....which somehow, magically, or perhaps because the key was now exposed, started just like it was supposed to do!
As I headed down the road and turned onto the busy-traffic-filled-highway, I reflected on the small, first world problem that seemed destined to derail my day...and yet was just a blimp on the radar of my day.
Amid the devastation of hurricanes, the aftermath of train crashes, the sadness of life-changing illness, and thestress associated with elections and living in our busy, modern world, my small, first world kind of a problem really is not much of a problem.  
Yet, it was a reminder that we all need to put our stressors and problems in the proper perspective.

Monday, October 3, 2016

#sol16 Impulse Purchases

Recently, I've developed an affinity for those "big box" stores where refrigerators sit alongside stacks of plywood and piles of mums.  There I find light bulbs that will last 13 years (seriously?) and wheelbarrows that fit into mini cars.  I've also found myself drawn to smaller, more traditional hardware stores, such as a nearly ACE that has paint chips nestled among wine glasses!  This week's mission was "leaf bags," for falling leaves, and a microwave oven, for reheating. The leaf bags were easy.  Right up front.

However, I was lured into the "tool aisle" as I headed towards the back of the store and the "small appliance section."  I walked by cutters and connectors of all sizes, shapes, and powers.  It was in the middle of the aisle, that section designed to lure you in, where I found it. I picked up the demo that was nearly weightless and yet whirred in my hand.  It seemed comfortable and seemed to be calling me.  I remembered the feeling of finding something-too-good-to-pass-up at TJ Maxx or Talbots! Clearly this was impulse and not necessary, so I put it down and continued towards the small appliances.

Not finding a small microwave that met my needs, I headed to the check out area walking by "it" again.  This time, "IT" jumped into my cart where I found "IT" as I loaded the leaf bags onto the counter!  I smiled as Lila the Little Screwdriver was scanned and loaded into a bag.  And now, Lila and I are ready for small, powerful screw-driver-type-business! Our specialty, I suspect, will be those impulse jobs, like hanging a picture when I should be putting laundry away!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

#sol15 Gyms: For People and Cars

Yes, from the mouths of a kindergarten student thinking outside the box this afternoon, come the invention we have all been waiting for!  A "gym" space were humans can run on treadmills, fast, and cars can go to learn to go on race tracks, fast!  That's how one little guy explained his block creation to me.  He then proceeded to demonstrate how that would work!  I smiled, as he eagerly explained his creation....while my mind raced to the possibilities of this creation! 
What if there were gyms where we could work out while our cars were cleaned?
What if there were gyms where we could work out AND get our laundry done at the same time?
What if there were gyms where people and their dogs could both work out at the same time?
What if there were gyms where someone would pay our bills while we worked out?
What if there were gyms where we could relax while the pounds and inches melted away?
Tangential thinking on my part; however, I am reminded of the potential to think outside of the box and shape their environment in creative ways every time I sit knee to knee with an eager young learner.  
If only we could "bottle" and save that imaginati

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Teaching Grammar: A TWT Share
From Anna Cockerille of Two (or more) Writing Teachers Fame. here are FIVE amazing mni-grammar-writing lessons.  These suggestions are TOO good to miss!

Ideas for teaching:

Punctuating Dialogue
Verb Tense
Sentence Fragments

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Good Morning to You or Happy Birthday to You:You Choose

This week, I'm singing "Happy Birthday to You," again and again as we celebrate two very special first birthdays in my family.  The "little babies" who joined our family last year just as fall blew in are now, I guess, technically "toddlers." Yet, they will always be my "miracles" who brighten my heart when they smile and melt my heart when they share a slobbery, open mouth version of a kiss.  
So as I prepare to sing Happy Birthday to You to them, I started wondering about the roots of the song.  I know, the CCS get to me again and I start wondering about the information behind customs and traditions! Here is what I found here:
In 1893, Mildred and Patty Hill, teachers, wrote Good Morning to All to sing to their pupils.  "Good morning to you........."  In 1922, "birthday snuck into versions of the song!  In 1931, the song made it into the musical, The Band Wagon and it was copyrighted in 1934.  it was not until 2015 that the song was "copyright free!"  Phew...'cause we;re singing it more than once at this point in time....and we may just add the "Good Morning to You"  origins to our singing routine just to break things up a bit!  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

#sol201 We All Need Somebody to Lean On

"Do you know your way back?" I asked her after we read together, "or would you like me to walk back with you," I asked her at the end of my fall screening.
"Can you come with me?" she asked.

"I'd love to," I responded seriously.  She grabbed my hand and we headed back to her class.  It was not much of a walk, but as she grabbed for my hand, I was sure she was grateful for my guidance on her journey through a not-yet-familiar hallway.

I thought of that moment many hours later when I exited the unfamiliar highway and thinking I knew where I was going, turned right rather than left.  I spent 15 minutes or so, even though it felt longer, trying to find my way home, with several stops to access my GPS along the way. If not for GPS, I might be wandering through deer-and-bear-infested hills even now!

There are times in our lives when we all need someone to take our hand when we are lost on our journey through life.  That person can be our parent, teacher, partner, sibling, friend, pastor, GPS, or even a paid counselor.   

As the song says, "We all need someone to lean on."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Celebrating: When it is really hot!

It's been hot  and humid this week in these parts, and my school, like so many others, is not air conditioned. Most of us have abandoned our fall clothes in favor of our old linen shifts and long, loose skirts.  Most of us have splurged on an extra large iced tea or perhaps a diet coke to cool from the inside when we cannot control the outside.
It was certainly "hot" in the hallway as I walked one of my "customers" back to class and a colleague commented, "It is so hot in hear, we could fry an egg in this hallway."
I suspect I nodded, understanding the reference and agreeing it was hot; however, after we were down the hallway a bit, my reflective young reader offered her own perspective on the heat - or perhaps the lack of it.
"It's not really hot," she noted, "until your hair is sweating."  
I smiled as her comment did not require a response.  She was right, indeed.  Really hot is when you have been really working out at the gym, or running around the yard, or running a marathon!  You are working so hard, your hair becomes drippy from sweat.   Clearly, we were uncomfortable today, but we were not working THAT hard!
Perspective: an important part of reflection.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

School Days

Back to school, 
Whether your first,
Your last first,
You're starting Kindergarten,
Middle School, High School,
College, Grad School,
Is a totally exhausting, 
Exciting wonderful,
There are lots of new notebooks,
Backpacks, lunch boxes,
Pencils, pens, and crayons 
Representing the excitement and
Potential of the new year.
Even for this lawn-art-statue,
I see each morning, 
Who is ready for school,
Complete with a lunch box,
Backpack, skateboard,
 and an ear-to-ear smile.
Even though the future holds
Late nights of lesson plans.
Homework and that dreaded alarm,
Back to school is pretty special.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Celebrating : Readers

"There is so much to do in our Balanced Literacy Block," she sighed, "what is most important for all my students"? How can I help the ones who are below grade level readers?"  

During "back to school" season, there are lots of teachers who find themselves with shortened/split/overprogrammed/RTI filled/writing intense/reader response filled/busy ELA blocks.  So much to little time.  There are also many teachers working outside their comfort zone. Sometimes it is a new grade level or sometimes it is a particularly challenging group, academically or behaviorally.  Most of us have been there at some point. I suspect Heinemann was thinking of that often asked question when they write this post.  The suggestions are certainly based on research based teaching practices.  No matter where readers are on the journey, we need to focus on MEANING.  Without meaning, there really isn't any real reading!  We need to value "read alouds" which serve as reading models and motivators, especially when they allow readers to "stretch"where they cannot yet go independently. Encourage, motivate, and value the reading experiences of your students.  Talk about books and encourage readers to talk about what they are reading.  Embrace whatever they will read! Remember, phonics is the key to understanding the code of print; however, it is not focused on reading as a meaning making process.  Writing, however, is the inverse meaning making process and activates the same centers of the brain, the meaning making. Check out the Heinemann page for the full article.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Celebrating Pedagogy

As we head back into our 21st Century classrooms, where Pinterest-worthy decor and research based programs are expected to co-mingle, there are voices on the horizon reminding us to think about the pedagogy of teaching and to consider not just what we do, but also how and why we spend precious classroom moments doing what we do. 

It's easy to get caught up in the "physical space" and how it looks to others in an era where teachers are "assessed" on their "use of space."  It's easy to focus on maintaining the "fidelity" of "research-based" programs in an era of responsibility and accountability.  Yet, at a recent meeting, I heard an administrator talk about respecting "pedagogy."  Then, in my PLN, there was a recent graphic on the pedagogy of teaching.  

Perhaps, with just the right "push" from those of us in the trenches, the pendulum may swing ever so gently back towards a balance between practice and pedagogy because our students are not simply "buckets" to be filled with knowledge.  They are individuals with diverse strengths and unique learning needs.  To meet the needs of all students, teachers must choose from the array of potential strategies and methods and differentiate their instruction, materials, practice and assessment. Pinterest-worthy classrooms and research based programs are not enough to assure learning for all. Teachers firmly grounded in the why and how learning occurs are the essential element in 21st Century classrooms everywhere.      

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Happy Day To You

Today I celebrate  
Coffee, scrambled eggs,
Gently used gloves, tried and true clippers,
A screw driver that is smarter than I am,
A rake that knows what to do,
And friends through thick and thin,
Good times and yucky times.
Over the years, I have celebrated 
With back to school shopping,
Folders, notebook, school clothes,
Swimming days, lobsters and mussels,
Yet, I have never felt more blessed,
Never celebrated with laughter and tears,
Never put my gifts to work before sunset.
Today, I celebrate the power of friendship
To unearth a hiding Mum,
Lost among weeds,
Found thanks to tools
That already knew what to do,
And friends who know what you need.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Chapter Where I Swam With Stalactites

I learned to swim in a tiny, poured concrete pool in the mobile home park where I lived.  I suspect "Ed Smith," who owned the lot where mobile homes were headed onto postage stamps, built the pool by hand.  I suspect that swimming the length of it was really no big deal: however, five year old me envisioned myself as nearly an Olympic swimmer when I first finished the distance. 
My mom did not swim, did not like water, did not like to be around the pool; however, my dad, whose swimming roots were in a tiny turtle-filled pond on a farm, had other ideas about the potential of swimming for his young daughters.  So, after he got home from work, we went swimming.  We jumped in off the rough concrete sides again  We laughed as the cool water licked our faces.  We had daddy -daughter time and pool-time almost every night in those days before we had TV, in those days before we could even read to ourselves on summer nights. 
Yesterday, however, I inched my way into a new and unfamiliar swimming venue.  Yes, there was a wee bit of "I'll do it but then you have to get in too happening." Yes, that's me swimming in an "invigorating" cave. Yes, it was cold and dark in that place where the sun doesn't shine.  

Yes, it was an experience I will treasure for a lifetime.  Cold, clear and captivating water envelopes your body as you descend the stairs.  Yet, after you adjust, the cave becomes your own God-made-stalactite-filled swimming hole! 
I suspect my dad and the one who made that swimming hole were smiling as we  paddled around

Ps Thanks to the stranger who offered to take a picture as there was no way you could get out and then face re-entry!  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

SOL16 New Chapters

The sky was as blue as it could be,
The other day,
A gentle breeze served as a reminder
A new chapter was beginning
July was over,
August, the season of new beginnings
Was here.
The mood, juxtaposed to the sky,
Mixed. excited, scared, reflective, unsure,
As often is the case
When one chapter ends,
And another begins.

Someone finished a chapter,
Of their life, the other day.
Leaving their comfort zone, 
Facing new challenges.
Holding tight to the memories,
Laughter, love and tears.

Someone finished a chapter,
Why does every good story have to end?
How do you looking ahead,
Rather than backwards?
How do you hold tight to the good memories,
Overlooking the sad ending?

Someone began a chapter, 
Starting a new year of living,
Filled with potential, hopes, and dreams.
Celebrating as it should be,
With mementos, slobbery kisses,

Someone also began a chapter,
A new way of living,
Filled with potential, hopes, and dreams.
On a street where everybody
Knows your name,

Goffle Brook Park - Hawthorne, NJ, United States. A serene view from the bridge of the water fall. Usually duckies will go on the rocks bellow. The waterfall is from the lake.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Jane Yolen

Read to me riddles and read to me rhymes
Read to me stories of magical times
Read to me tales about castles ad kings
Read to me stories of fabulous things
Read to pirates and read to me knights
Read to me dragons and dragon book fights
Read to me spaceships and cowboys and then
When you are finished - please read them again. 

Read To Us

Read to us Beachbabies Wear Shades
Tell us about Clifford and his escapades,
Read to us Snuggle Puppy and  
Goodnight Moon,
Read to us softly with voices of characters
Right here in this room,
Read to us while we snack, safe from harm,
Read to us while we rest in your arms,
Read to us now
With our heads resting next to your heart,
Read to those tales over and over and then,
Read us our favorites again and again!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

#celebratelu16 How do you decide what to read?

When it comes time to buy baby gifts, I always give books.  I guess it comes as no surprise to most recipients as I have always loved to read, adore a good bookstore, am a Kindle affectionado, collect old books, teach kids to read for a living, and teach wanna be grad-student reading teachers in the evenings.

Over the years, I've found some wonderful Sandra Boyton board books, like The Goodnight Book and Barnyard Dance, that I buy in multiple copies to have on hand when the occasion for a baby-book-gift arises.  

So, when I found out that I was going to be a Grammy last year, I went "hog-wild" collecting books for the little miracles that would be joining our family.  I can assure you that my granddaughter and my grandson have plenty of books!

So, when I saw this picture pop up attached to a text late yesterday, I really had to smile.  Like most kids who are immersed in books and reading, this little girl has learned to generalize the power of reading to "tasting" a few textbooks about Scala and Human Physiology, as well "tearaing apart"  some magazines, like the Better Homes and Garden sand Real Simple in the picture below.  At 10 months, she can't yet read nor even say many words;  however, she can make her needs and wants known and can find reading material no matter where it is hidden in her house!  And, she is already faced with the challenge that has shaped my life: So many books, so little time.  How do you decide what to read first?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

#sol16 Warning Signs

These days,
I usually order books
On my Kindle.
It's faster, easier,
With two clicks
I'm reading.

One summer day,
So for a special "vacation" treat,
I went to a real, wonderful,
Where "real" books lined the shelves,
People thumbed through the pages
Before carrying their treasures home.
The warning signs
Confirmed what I already knew.
It was a dangerous place 
Where books were screaming
"Take me,"
My credit card was moaning
"Do you need all this?"
And I was smiling
As I remembered the joy
A wonderful bookstore
Could bring
And as I carried my 
Treasures home
Ignoring all those

Sunday, July 24, 2016

#celebratelu16: Imagination

Nestled between "normal-sized"homes on a quiet suburban street in a NYC suburb, I discovered spectacular fairy gardens!  There are gnomish homes, pebble-lined paths, tiny thyme trees, and delicate butterfly-flowers.  If you look closely, you might even find a cucumber or two purposely left behind by the fairies for the gardeners who diligently tend to the gardens.  If you listen closely late at night, you might even "hear" the tenants emerge from their lilliputian lodgings and begin their after-bedtime bedlam!  Seriously, there are FAIRY GARDENS growing and sponsoring fairy life on suburban streets after dark!

I've listened to the preschoolers who helped create the gardens talk about the emerging flowers and the need for daily careful watering.  I've discussed the potential magical powers of tiny pieces of sea glass with young gardeners who oversee the care of gardens.  I've even talked with the owner of one of the regular sized houses about the specific plants that will augment rather than detract from her magical paradise tucked on the side of the house! I'm pretty sure I heard some strange sound coming from the garden as I took out the trash late one night!

So, this morning I celebrate the magic and miracle of imagination.  While I intellectually know there is no-such-thing as "fairies," I am totally sure that imagination is the basis for creativity and problem-solving ability.  Imagination allows us envision those people and places we read about, yet never see.

Imagination needs to be nurtured, supported and cultured, just like those fairy gardens I found!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

#sol2016 Respect

I was waiting in line in McDonalds for my .99 coffee when I overheard a woman, appearing to be the manager say, "I can't believe this refrigerator door is left open again."  Her employee, who was busily managing both the line inside the store and the never ending drive up window single-handely, did not respond, but kept on working on her orders.  "Did you hear me?" she asked the food-service-worker?"  Without waiting for a response, she continued in what appeared to me to be a "put down tone" in full listening view of customers and other employees, "If this keeps happening, we're going to have to talk."  Moments later, she turned on her heel, tucked her manager-style-white shirt into her skirt and left the front of the store saying, "I'm going on break now, but I will be watching."

I wonder if the "manager" had one day worn that food-worker's uniform and stood in the front of the store taking orders and filling them in rapid fire order?  I wonder if her "attitude" was always so disrespectful?  I wonder if she every considers how her words impact others?  I wonder if she thinks about how her words might build anger in her employees?

As I enjoyed my coffee, I had plenty of time to think about this one small but very SAD interaction and the many, many other sad interactions between people with different beliefs and different backgrounds and how those put-downs might be interpreted and might contribute to seeds of hate.  I thought about people in management, leadership, authority, power, and control (including teachers and administrators) whose words and actions might contribute to anger that might fester or that might even boil over into hate sometimes.  I thought about all the sadness and the violence that has filled the news lately.  I thought about how I could try to be a little kinder to everyone I meet along this path of life.  I wondered if we need to all take a page from:
                                          Arethra Franklin and give each other a little RESPECT?

Find out what it means to me

Friday, July 15, 2016

#celebratelu2016 OLW: Persistence

Today I celebrate the power of MY 2016 OLW.

"We're busier than we've ever been," 
He said, over the phone,
Yet, when I looked at him eye-to-eye,
"One unit just became available.
I am so glad you walked in when you did."
"So am I," I said to myself.

"I'm sorry, but you're denied,"
He said, over the phone,
Your ratio is just not good enough.
Your just not the best candidate.
Yet, there are other ways to get to where
I want to go.
Other paths, possibilities, formats.
I will not be deterred by, "No."

In spite of difficulty 
Those boxes sure are heavy,
Yet, I have been lifting weights,
They are heavy, but all I have to do 
Is get to the cart.
I've been preparing for this move
Even without knowing.

Finding potential
Learning from Bob the Builder, 
"Can I do this, YES, I can!"

Who knew
Could be inspired  from
Uncle Bob's Storage,
Bob, the Broker, and
Bob the Builder!!!!  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

#SOL2016 Soothsayers

I've been on a "blogging break" as I've dealt with hard to write about slices of life. However, this week, I've had TWO "slices with soothsayers" that left me with goosebumps as well as this "uncanny" need to write

Not long before the "fireworks" began, she looked me as if she had known me for a long, long time and started, "Honey, it's gonna be OK.  I promise you, if you believe in your whole heart, if you let your anger and hurt go, if you just put your whole trust in the Almighty, it will be just fine.  You will see the majesty of the mountains, the power of the sunrise and wrap your days in glorious sunsets." To be honest, there was a part of me that felt like laughing out loud as this person I did not know and had never talked to before seemed to "see" into my heart; but, for some reason I just let her continue. "You have to look ahead," she continued, "and not back into the past.  In the past there is sadness but your future is brighter than you can ever imagine." Throwing her hands to the heavens, she added , "I have plans for you, he says, plans for glorious days ahead!"  I nodded and thanked her for her "predictions" as I said my "Good-bye" and moved away.wondering if I had imagined that interaction or if it was real. To be quite honest, things did NOT suddenly turn around and my life did NOT suddenly become a "bed-of-roses," but for some strange reason, I get "goosebumps" as her words resonated in my head.

Then, not too many days later, as we "shared an elevator" at "self-storage" house, another soothsayer looked over to my loaded cart and questioned me, "Moving?" I nodded in response to her query and she continued. "I have to be out this week and it's the hottest week in a long time.  I have a lot of books, like you.  I was a teacher, an English teacher."  I stared down at my cart of boxes marked clearly, "BOOKS." but I said nothing, somehow I didn't need to say anything and she continued. "We may be tiny, but we are mighty and fierce," she continued, "Shakespeare was talking about us!"  And with a click of her heels, I think I saw, she was out of the elevator on her floor and I never saw her again.  In spite of the stifling heat, I had goose-bumps all over as I unloaded my cart.

Now, the truth is I have never had my "future-formally-predicted" by a paid-crystal-ball-toting fortune teller; however, this week, soothsayers seem to be finding ME in strange places and compelling me to slice about THEM!  So, because I do hope the future is as bright as SS#1 predicted and because I do hope I am as mighty as SS#2 seemed to believe from a chance encounter in an elevator, I'm slicing up their stories this summer morning!


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

#sol16 It looks like you!

There was a time,
Not that long ago,
When I was a younger,
Slimmer, less wrinkled, less gray, 
Version of me, now!

As we shared this lovely tale
Of reading to family
The other day,
One of my kindergartners
Offered excitedly,
"She looks just like you!"
"Did you write this book?
She asked with a smile!   
"I wish I had," I commented,
"But I am very busy listening to 
My readers, like you!"
"I am a reader" she smiled
Rewriting the page as she read,
"I can read to Mrs. Ferreri
Who looks just like this!"

I'm pretty lucky
To have shared
Many wonderful
Reading journeys
Where I was an 
Auntie, Mom, 
Long ago,
Perhaps the 
"Cool, young" teacher.  

I'm fortunate 
To have shared 
Enough magical 
Reading journeys
To qualify me as
A title I proudly wear!