Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Taking Care of Problems #SOL16

I'm joining with Two Writing Teachers for the Tuesday Slice of Life.

Yesterday I took a personal day. I had scheduled to get my septic pumped. The guys came and there was bad news. My septic was draining properly. Turns out,  I have to replace the first 12 feet of the field line, called the header. I did this nine years ago. Should I really have to replace this already? I called the guy who did the work. He said text him my address and he'll let me know when he can come out. He mentioned something about today, but I haven't heard back from him. So my poor mom is put on alert. When the guy calls me, I call her, and off she runs to my house. Then we had quite a bit of rain last night. While I was watching tv and relaxing, I begin to hear a dripping noise. I discovered a leak in my roof. When it rains, it pours - I guess. Houses - blessed to be able to own one, but boy is it a pain in the neck!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Project Presentations - Slice of Life

In my fifth grade social studies class, students have been working on researching a variety of topics related to Westward Expansion. The students worked in pairs based on their topic of interest. Today, groups presented on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Trail of Tears. The kids did such a great job. The group that presented on the Louisiana Purchase wrote a readers theater script that the class performed today. They included information about Madison, Livingston, Jefferson and Napoleon, how the negotiations took place, how the country changed because of the acquired land, and the effects on expanding westward. The class loved performing the reader's theater. The second group presented on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the creation of the Corps of Discovery, background information on Lewis and Clark. They informed us about the interactions with the Native Americans, the important stopping points along the way, as well as information about some of the flora and fauna they discovered, like the Lewis woodpecker. The last group that presented today taught us about the Trail of Tears. This group wrote letters from varying points of view, such as Native American children and mothers, as well as from Andrew Jackson. They did a great job including relevant information use in a persuasive form, especially when they wrote to Jackson. The class really felt for the Native Americans and their enormous loss.

As I've implemented project work in my social studies classes this year, I have discovered that with each project my students delve deeper into their chosen topic. They have become more curious, gotten better at questioning, developed their research and note-taking skills, and used more creativity in their presentations. I am looking forward to tomorrow's presentations!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Educator Collaborative Gathering April 2

I am linking up with Margaret Simon who hosts DigiLit Sundays on her blog, Reflections on the Teche.

Yesterday, I participated in some fantastic PD and all from home in my pjs. Can you get better than that? Chris Lehman put together some wonderful superstars in his The Educator Collaborative Gathering. If you didn't know about this or weren't able to watch the webinars yesterday, they are archived and you can go watch and learn when it's convenient for you - just follow the link, The Educator Collaborative Gathering.

I began with the keynote by listening to Smokey Daniels and Sara Ahmed. I was fortunate enough to hear them speak before at a conference in New Orleans in January 2015. These two are fantastic and really explain the importance and relevance of inquiry and collaboration in the classroom, the importance of listening to your students, and really following their interests. Speaking from personal experience, I know if my students have choice and voice, then I don't have to work on buy in. It's there and their level of dedication, involvement, and investment are off the charts.

Another session I listened to was Notebook Time: Bringing Discovery and Play Back into the Writing Classroom with Rebekah O'Dell and Allison Marchetti. I really enjoyed this session. They talked about the first 5 - 7 minutes of class time being devoted to notebook time and what that looks like. They said there was lots of modeling that went on at the beginning of the year, so students understood what risk taking looked like, with a gradual release. They used free writes, poems, sentence study, data and images. The only thing I don't currently use is data. I find this really intriguing because they said one thing they hear from colleges is that students don't understand how to interpret statistics. I thought this was a great take-away and I plan to implement using data this week into my classroom. I love the idea of having students look at and interpret data. I think this will be a great spring board for both conversation and writing.

There were so many fantastic sessions yesterday. If you weren't able to participate, it's well worth your time to take a look at the archived session. I know you'll come away with something new to try in your classroom.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

I Made It! #SOL16

It's the last day for the Slice of Life Month of March Challenge, and I can't believe I made it! I have written every single day and commented on posts from others every single day. I can't say I always wrote inspirational posts - or reader worthy for that matter, but I'm very proud of myself for making it to the end. I wasn't sure if I could do it, but I set my goal and worked towards it every day. I really enjoyed reading posts by so many others that I didn't know about before. I'm happy that I've found these new blogs and I will continue to read them moving on. Now I have to decide how I want to continue blogging. I know I will participate in the Tuesday Slices, and I'm excited for that. I need to figure out how I want to move forward with other posting though.

This was a great challenge, and I really appreciate those at the Two Writing Teachers blog who started this, arranged everything, organized it for all us, and carried it out!

Hooray! 31 days of posting:)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Planning, Planning and More Planning #SOL16

At our school we have an auction every two years, and this year was an auction year. All the teachers have to offer some type of package for parents to bid on for their children. One of the items I offered with two other teachers is Chopped. We opened it up to be bid on two different times, so we'll have a total of 12 kids competing in the game. I'm meeting with the other two teachers to figure out what we need to do to prepare for the game.

We have a young group, first graders, and an older group, sixth graders, that are competing. (It was only supposed to be offered to fourth and up, but that didn't happen:)) We need to decide how we're going to work the competition since we have such a large difference in ages participating. We think the best way is to split each of the six into groups of three. Then we'll have two first grade teams compete against each other and two sixth grade teams compete against each other.

We have to decide on the ingredients that need to be included in the baskets, as well as what other items/ingredients need to be available as "pantry" ingredients. We also have to decide whether we'll have the kids actually chop ingredients or if everything will already be prepped and ready to use. We have to decide how the teams are going to be judged and what they'll win. Will everyone win something or just one team from each age group.

There is quite a bit of preparation that has to take place before April 9th! I think there are so many things to think about, I hope we don't miss anything. If there's something you think we might need to consider, I'd love it if you left in as a comment.

I hope it will be fun for the kids!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bullet Journals #SOL16

Have you heard of bullet journaling? My daughter introduced me to the idea. We scoured bullet journaling on Pinterest. We watched some videos on bullet journal - how to do it, what to include. Then, we ordered some Leuchtturm 1917 dot journals and pretty colorful pens on Amazon. And we waited. Today they arrived. Yay!

We looked at our new journals. Where to begin? It was a little overwhelming. Neither one of us wanted to write something in our brand new journal and mess it up. We went back to the bullet journal images on Pinterest, watched a couple more videos and then we finally took the plunge. We created some daily pages, a To Do List, an exercise page, and a goal page.

We're excited about this new bullet journal journey. Do you bullet journal?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Hope for Our World #SOL16

Yesterday was rainy and gloomy. We met my parents, siblings and their families at church. The minister preached about the true meaning of Easter but he also spoke about his sadness. His mother is in her last stages of life. He talked about his faith and her faith and the power in knowing that this is not the end. I was moved by his strength.

We went to lunch together afterwards at my parents' club. There were many, many families there, spending time together over a meal. You could see the love at each table. Children begging grandparents for help with the push-up desserts. Parents scooping children up for hugs. Everyone taking care of their families.

The children were having a great time. They were trotting between tables, grabbing desserts, climbing into laps, scaling chairs. There was plenty of movement amongst the children. There were smiles. There was laughter.

My father turned to my mother and said, "Seeing these children gives me hope for our world."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The New Morning Wake Up Routine #SOL16

Here I sit. The dog and kitten woke me bright and early this morning; 4:30 am seems to be their new time. The kitten stretches his arms out and paws at the dog, just a little bit mind you, and the dog trots back and forth from one end of the bed to the other. Meanwhile, the other cat is perched on top of my side. This is the way I have been woken up the last four or five mornings. I try and ignore it. I try and soothe the dog, so she'll settle back down, but to no avail. This trotting back and forth becomes a bit frantic, and then I know, there is no more sleep for me....it's time to get up. Take everyone outside. Make the coffee. Now, here I sit.

The new morning wake up routine...I don't like it!
I'm tired:)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Day of Thanks #SOL16

I am thankful for today.

Today is my first day of spring break, and I am thankful.

Today my sister and her family are coming in town, and I am thankful.

Today I spent the day with my daughter, and I am thankful.

Today we had lunch with friends, and I am thankful.

Today I was able to sit and read quietly, and I am thankful.

Today I spent time with my brother and parents, and I am thankful.

I am thankful for today.

Friday, March 25, 2016

When a Good Book Grabs You #SOL16

You know that moment.  I have this book. It's a rather big book. I've heard it's good. I love the author, Pam Munoz Ryan. I heard her speak two years ago and fell in love with her even more. This book has been on my "to read" list for quite a while. I haven't picked it up, until yesterday.

We have a group doing book club, so we met on Wednesday during advisory time to decide on what book or books we were going to read over the next couple of weeks. The students voted on four books, so we will have four groups going. Two out of the four I have read. Our list is Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library (read and loved), Savvy (read and loved), Peak (haven't read but plan to read with my boys), Echo (haven't read but plan to read with my girls).

I have a copy of Echo in my classroom library, which I pulled when we were voting.

Yesterday, my kiddos were working on poetry and Echo was sitting on my table. No one needed me at that moment, so I opened the book - just to take a look, mind you. Well, that was that. I read the first few pages - the opener.  I WAS HOOKED! I continued through the first chapter and had to stop because it was the end of the day. BUMMER! We had to pack up and head to carpool.

I don't know that I can wait until after spring break to read this with my kiddos. Ryan really grabbed me from the very beginning. I already want to see what happens next.

I will try to wait, but really.....I think I will read it now and reread it with the girls:)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thinking of Friends in Belgium #SOL16

My Slice today is related to my long time friend living in Brussels. She and I were roommates in boarding school for two of our three years. We went to college 20 minutes from each other and saw each other frequently, but then I moved across the country to the West Coast and she to Brussels. She married a Belgian man.  I haven't spoken to her on the phone in so many, many years, but we keep up with each other and our lives through email, Facebook and instant messaging. When I heard the news of the bombings in Brussels, of course my thoughts immediately turned to her and her family. I sent her a message and waited to hear. I did hear back from her. She and her family are fine, but she said things were very chaotic that day. Her children were at school and one school was on lockdown and no one could come or go. The other school wanted parents to come pick up their children. She finally got all her children home. This is what she posted on Facebook that morning:

There is still much uncertainty, and that erie feeling of chaos and calm at the same time is very unsettling. So many questions that you just can't answer, reassurance you can't promise your kids, awaiting the unanswered about friends/parents who were there. So what next? Where? It's a horrible feeling of helplessness, a living nightmare. I pray not only for us here in Belgium but for all of you living in other parts of the world, especially our children, because one way or another we are all affected by such atrocities. It's hard having to accept the unpredictability of such events and the increased risks we are faced with everyday but to live in fear is much worse. We CANNOT live in fear! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My Kiddos Did Me Proud! #SOL16

You know that feeling when your kids just make you proud? Yesterday was one of those days for me. My Slice yesterday was all about the excitement of our field trip. We went to a place called American Village where there are interactive activities relating to the American Revolution. My kiddos did not disappoint.  Although we covered the topics related to this in January, they remembered everything. (Hooray!)

We began the visit on the Courthouse steps, where the "colonists" reacted to the new stamp master that arrived in town and chanted "no taxation without representation" in response to the Stamp Act. Afterwards, students visited Mount Vernon and learned how to dance appropriately for the time period. We moved from Mt. Vernon to a secret meeting in a tavern where General Gage's wife brought a secret message letting us know of the Redcoats' plan to take the armory in Concord. We debated whether we could trust her to be telling the truth since she was General Gage's wife. We then delivered the message to Paul Revere's wife, who was to get the message to her husband. Once the message was delivered, we attended the convention where Patrick Henry and others declared reasons for the colonists to declare independence. Here the students participated in a debate as Loyalists, Patriots, and Neutralists, giving reasons for and against independence. Finally, a vote to declare independence was taken. We visited the encampment, where we learned how to load a musket and march correctly. Finally, we went to Constitutional Convention, where a variety of plans, such as the Virginia and New Jersey Plans, were discussed and compromises were adopted. 

My students participated in all the activities and re-enactments that were available. They were knowledgeable and were able to add to discussion in every area we visited. They had a great time and I feel this was such a worthwhile field trip where they were able to deepen their understanding of the importance of actions taken in our history to gain independence and create a government that would protect our liberties.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Excitement of a Field Trip #SOL16

Excitement was in the air yesterday as we talked and prepared for today. I know the kids will be crazy this morning. We're going on a field trip today. Field trips are always fun and highly anticipated! My fifth graders and I are going to visit American Village today. American Village is where the time of the colonists and the Revolutionary War are reenacted. They do an excellent job of having the kids participate. Each group is a colony and today we will be South Carolina. We'll go through a meeting where we discuss the unfair taxes that have been placed on us, and we'll vote to declare our freedom. We'll attend a secret meeting where we discuss plans of revolution and get information from spies. We'll visit Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was written and the Constitution. We'll get to see how a musket is loaded, and we will march in formation. We'll recite the preamble of the Constitution, declaring our rights and responsibilities. Today will be a great day!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cats' Morning Interaction #SOL16

There he perches,
a king.
Tail twitching.
Underneath him
below the chair,
bat, bat, bat.
Swish, swish.
swat, swat
paws peaking up
through the back of the chair.
Tail thumping.
The little one reaches up
testing the waters
trying to catch the tail.
The king,
departs for calmer territory.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring is Here #SOL16

Today is the first day of spring. I live in Alabama, so we've had a taste of spring already. My daffodils have come and gone. I've worn sandals to school. I put the coats and sweaters away. The new leaves are starting on the hydrangeas and the maple tree. My lawn seems to be growing green, although weeds seem to be plentiful rather than grass. The azaleas are full of buds, waiting to open. I've begun taking my afternoon walks again, now that it is staying light later. I love this time of year. Although we make resolutions in January, this is the time for me. Spring is a time for reflection and renewal. Spring is a time when I try and get my head on straight again. Spring is a time for me to set new goals. Spring is a time for new beginnings.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Student Reflections #SOL16

I had my students reflect on their writing so far this year. They have taken about seven or eight pieces through the entire writing process, some nonfiction and some fiction. They read back through their writing and were able to see how they've grown so far this year. They noticed things like being able to "show don't tell" their reader by including great description, figurative language and strong word choice. They know how to include dialogue to move their story along and bring their characters to life. They see the importance of having a strong lead to grab their reader. The recognize the mechanical errors they had in the beginning of the year as compared to more recently. This is what I heard around the room as they looked at their pieces:

"Oh my gosh! I can't believe I did that! Look Frances, I didn't even capitalize my sentence!"

"My lead is so boring Ms. Fahey. My last story was so much more interesting. I really grabbed my reader."

"Ms. Fahey, can I correct this story? I see so many run-on sentences that it doesn't even make sense."

Amazing, right? This was so rewarding. It's one thing for me to tell my students how they've grown and what they need to work on, but with this reflection, my students recognize their own growth as writers and can also see where they're still growing and their goal areas.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Conferences #SOL16

We had conferences this week. Because we're completely departmentalized for the first time this year, my team (we teach 4th and 5th) met as a team with all fourth and fifth grade parents. That's sixty conferences! We had to take an extra day in order to get them all done.  The parents were very appreciative of all we're doing with and for their children. They could see how their child has grown in confidence, emotionally, socially, and academically. It was very rewarding. That being said, I was chatting with another teacher yesterday afternoon to see how their conferences went, and she said that their conferences went well. The parents are happy with what is happening in the classroom, but overall their feedback was quite a bit of grumbling and unhappiness with all the changes that have happened at the school. The feeling seems to be that there are so many changes since our new head of school has taken over, there must have been something really wrong before - and what she reported one parent to say was, "Get out while you can." This is so upsetting to me because the parent that said this to another parent is one of my fourth grade parents. Her daughter is doing well, is growing in all areas, and is really happy. They are one of the families that will be moving to another school next year because that school begins in 5th grade and that has been their tradition - to move their children over the first year of that school. They have another child still at our school. I just don't understand why she would make a comment like that to another parent. It's upsetting to hear.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Somewhere Safe with Someone Good #SOL16

I am currently reading Somewhere Safe with Someone Good by Jan Karon. I have read all the books in the Mitford Series and love them. They are very sweet. The story always makes me wish we lived in simpler times. It's full of rich characters and interesting plot-lines. The characters are caring, kind, and thoughtful, living in a small town where everyone knows each other - which is sometimes good, sometime bad. I am looking forward to bedtime, so I can snuggle up and escape for a little while.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Saying Goodbye #SOL16

The funeral was yesterday.  My mother's best friend died on Friday.  She was the wife of my father's best friend. My father is almost 85, and they've been friends since they were young boys. When Uncle John married Aunt Martha, Martha and my mother became best friends. Years and years of friendship - making a home, raising children - the trials and tribulations of that - experiencing an empty nest, children getting married, loving on grandchildren, all the ups and downs - the happiness and sadness of life. Aunt Martha was sick for a long time. She had pancreatic cancer and went through radiation and chemotherapy. She was clear for a while, but the cancer returned. She came home from the hospital about seven weeks ago, and the doctor gave her seven days. We went to visit her, and of course, she was sweet as always and in good spirits. My parents went to visit her and Uncle John regularly over the last seven weeks. They saw her the day before she died. I know everyone is glad she is not suffering anymore, but we're sad to not have her here. My mother said goodbye to her sweet friend and had the chance to tell her how very much she meant to her and how much she loved her. When my mom told me Martha had died, she said, "I had the chance to say goodbye to Martha. I gave her up one spoonful at a time."

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hard Work #SOL16


two heads huddle close -

whispering and sharing,

helping and suggesting.

Pencils scraping the paper.

Fingers tapping the keyboard.

My students are busy writers.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Laundry - #SOL16

"Why?" you ask. 
Well, it's never ending. 
There always seems to be a pile 
of laundry somewhere - 
in a basket in a bedroom, 
on the floor in the bathroom, 
piled by the washing machine, 
stuck in the dryer waiting to be folded, 
in a basket patiently waiting to be put away, 
it's never finished, 
it's always waiting,

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bedtime #sol16

I was looking for inspiration for my Slice today, and I looked at the link provided by the Two Writing Teachers. Looking at the different topics in the wordle, I honed in on bedtime. That word immediately conjured up sweet memories, both from my childhood and as a parent.

When I was little and bedtime rolled around, I would stand in front of my dad, stepping on his feet. He would hold my hands, and we would walk together, my feet on top of his. Every step he took, I took. We moved around the house checking to make sure the doors were locked. Then we'd go to my room and lay down on my bed. We would read. I know we read many, many books, but we had a few favorites: Eloise at the Plaza, the Teeny Tiny Woman, and Madeline. He read to me until I was old enough to read to him. Often I remember him snoring away before the story was finished.

When my children were young, we would snuggle up in their beds at night. They would pick out three books. We read these together, and my daughter would often "read" to us. She had the books memorized. When they got older I read chapter books with them. I can remember reading Holes with my son and both of us staying up later than we should have because we were so entranced with the story - just one more chapter is what was often said.

These are sweet memories for me. My father is now 85 and cannot read to himself anymore because of macular degeneration. Although he listens to books on tape and my mother reads to him, he misses it terribly. My children are almost grown, one 17 and one 21. Although we don't read books together anymore, they both have a love of reading and always have a book of some type going.

Rituals and reading - both bring back sweet memories.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Feeling Bad #SOL16

There have been students out of my class because of the flu and a stomach bug over the last two weeks. I don't usually catch things, but this morning I woke up and knew I'd caught the bug. Fortunately, I didn't catch the flu, but the stomach bug. It's been a long time - my sweet daughter took care of me today, while I lay in bed and watched an entire season of Project Runway. I wanted to make sure I posted my slice, but it's short and sweet. Back to bed I go.

Friday, March 11, 2016

South Africa Country of Study Celebration SOL#16

The excitement is palpable.

Children running around.

Parents helping set-up.

Searching in a safari,

for the Big 5.

Elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, and rhino.

Enter through Table Mountain,

Handmade musical instruments,

Walk through the mouth of a shark,

Painted sea scenes and research,

Dig for bones in the cave,

Listen to folktales being told,

Learn about myths and legends,

Wildlife, nature, sea life,

Traditional clothing, dance and food,

Tribal history and national symbols,

Education, sports and games,

God's Window and the Cooling Towers.

These are just a few things

Our students researched and created.

South Africa, Country of Study Celebration.

Parents, grandparents, and friends came.

They wandered from here to there,

The children were so proud

of all their hard work and learning.

All were eager to share.

The night was a big success.

South Africa, Country of Study Celebration.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Excitement in the Air SOL#16

For the last two years, our school has undertaken something called a Country of Study. We've had two teachers go visit a specific country during the summer - visiting as many sites and schools, and learning as much as they can in two weeks. During the year, each grade weaves this country into their curriculum in some way. Last year we studied Japan. This year the country is South Africa. When you walk into our building, the second grade has transformed it! You enter through Table Mountain and see beautiful artwork of animals and African instruments made by the second graders. You walk through an open shark's mouth up the stairs, while seaweed streamers hand down, and can see the research and writing the students completed on animals, posted on the sides of the stairs. At the top of the stairs set against black paper backgrounds in cubbies, are beautiful sea scenes they painted.  This is just a snippet of what the campus looks like. As you travel through the primary building, you go on a safari, looking for the Big 5. In the lunchroom, there are water filtration systems created by the third grade. My students, the fourth and fifth graders, chose different topics to study and represent - everything from history and native tribes, to education, to traditional dance and foods, to sports and games, to famous people, to tourist attractions like the Cooling Towers and God's Window, to a whole host of topics related to wildlife and nature. The students did display boards, paper mache, dioramas, used clay, paint, and so much more - even creating videos and a website. All the students will have a 15 minute time slot this afternoon to docent for their exhibit. Last year we had over 500 visitors on campus. Hopefully, today will be a big success. The students have really worked hard to create museum quality work, and now, the excitement is in the air.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Man's Best Friend SOL#16

There she sits.
Her eyes, big and round.
She watches.
She waits.
Her ears, soft and velvety.
She listens.
She hears.
Her tongue, long and pink.
She licks.
She loves to lick.
There she sits.
She's watching me.
She's waiting.
What am I going to do?
Where am I going to go?
She's always ready.
Wiggles, my pug.
Man's best friend.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Retention SOL#16

In school we always think about retention relating to what our students retain. Will they remember what they learned with us this year as they play over summer? Our school has another focus - retaining students. We are an independent school, who has a new head. This is her second year, and her focus is not just retention but it is her hyper-focus. There is much pressure felt by me and my team because we have a competitor's school that begins in fifth grade. My team teaches fourth and fifth.  We have problems in our middle school program. We had students last year that graduated eighth grade and didn't place in the math they should have. Parents of course were very upset. The talk and pressure continued to be focused on our grade. Our parents that are planning on taking their students out for fifth grade to begin at this other school tell us that they aren't going to have their child attend our school for Middle School because the program is not strong. I learned on Wednesday that the middle school math teacher went and met with the competitive school, showing them his "calendar" and that he believes he only has 30 days of actual teaching time. (Our calendar has not changed since the beginning of the year and he has a pacing guide.) He let them know he's not going to be covering the complete curriculum; he did not cover it last year, either. He wanted to know from them, the competitor, what is okay to touch on versus master.  My frustration is through the roof. This competitive school tells prospective families that they need to come in fifth grade to guarantee a spot. This has never been the case in reality. We've never had a student not get in, whether they apply for fifth, seventh, or ninth. But now, they can truthfully say to the prospective parents from our school, that our teacher has said the curriculum will not be fully covered. Our students will not be prepared. Our administration and our head, that is so hyper-focused, has congratulated him on reaching out and making a connection with this school. Is it just me, or is this crazy? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mondays SOL#16

Mondays -

A beginning

to something new,

the school week.

An end

to something precious,

the weekend.

We begin again,














A beginning

to something new,

the school week.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mornings SOL#16

I love my mornings.  I'm up before anyone else in the house. My dog wakes me, walking back and forth on the bed. My cat slowly stretches out from being curled up next to me. I take them out, while the coffee is brewing. When the coffee is ready, I pour a cup, curl up in my chair, pulling out my computer, and I begin to read blogs I love, check email, and these days, write. I love reading through the posts linked on TWT for SOL#16. This has become my daily inspiration. I begin my writing, get my thoughts down, go back, reread and revise. Finally, I post. All this in the quiet of morning, before everyone is up and the day begins.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Home SOL#16

There's nothing like coming home.

Being away,
taveling in airplanes,
Being away,
driving in taxis,
Being away,
sleeping in hotels,
Being away,
interacting with new people,
Being away,
connecting with colleagues,
Being away,
talking with strangers,
Being away,
waiting in airports.

Being home,

There's nothing like coming home.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Disappointing PD SOL#16

I was super excited to go to professional development this week. My colleagues and I visited this school in the fall, and we were invited back to experience a "deeper dive". I have to say, we were all very disappointed yesterday. The five of us split up into different categories - preschool, elementary, and middle school, with the presenters focusing on those areas specifically. The last time we were here, we received a binder full of documents, samples, rubrics, etc. We had in-depth presentations about how projects were generated, planned and carried out. This time all we received was a folder with an agenda and a map. Not one of us heard something new yesterday. We're hoping today will be better. Unfortunately, I feel this way often with pd: disappointment. Ever the optimist though, I hope we are surprised today and get to that "deeper dive".

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Busy, Chaotic Day SOL#16

Today was a teaching day and a traveling day. I began in a scurry - trying to get ready for the two days I will be gone from school.  I worked last night getting ready for the time I will be gone. I planned and planned and worried. Up at 3:00 in the morning worrying about how things will go when I'm gone. My students are so smart and work so hard. We just started our poetry unit. We've looked at figurative language. We've immersed ourselves in poetry. We noticed. We've taken note. I hate to leave my kiddos when we're just beginning the hard work. I hope what I've left will inspire them. I hope what they work on will bring forth their confidence and creativity. I am looking forward to returning on Monday - seeing what they've done while I'm gone.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

If We Look Around #SOL16

I began my morning with a check in on the Two Writing Teachers' blog to see what is in store for today's Slice Challenge. There was a link to a blog post, "Power-less" by Michelle Haseltine at One Grateful Teacher. Reading her post made me think about the struggle my students face when they think they don't have anything to write about. As I face this Slice of Life monthly challenge, I am understanding their fear and feelings about this. I know that Lucy Calkins tells us to notice the every day, notice the little things - keep a writer's notebook and always jot what you see, think, feel into it. This, I do not do. I have never considered myself a writer, BUT I strive to be what my students need, therefore, a writer I must become. Michelle's post brought home the power (no pun intended) to notice what is around us...or what isn't there - in her case, power.  This is my goal - to notice and write.

I love that the Two Writing Teachers are introducing me to new blogs and colleagues to read and learn from.

Thank you Michelle for this morning's inspiration and TWT for pushing me out of my comfort zone!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Memories of Smells SOL#16

Memories of Smells

It lingers in the air.

It wraps around me like a blanket.

There is a tug in the depths of my memories, pulling, pulling, pulling.

It takes me back to when I was young.

The summers - every summer - the fresh scent of rain.

The evergreen of the trees.

The sweet smell of hydrangeas and wild flowers.

The smell wafts around me; envelopes me.

I only walked through it.

I'm transported back to childhood.

Good times, family, friends, picnics, the lake.

This is my first Slice of Life Challenge. Join us won't you?

A Work in Progress

My students work quite a bit on writing fiction, so I wanted to work on writing a bit of fiction with my students.

A Work in Progress:

The washing machine thundered as the clothes spun like a tornado. Curious, the kitten poked his head through the kitty door and slunk down the stairs into the laundry room. THUMP! BUMP! The kitten ducked his head and spread himself as flat as a pancake against the base of the stair. He was sure no one could see him. He felt like a lion camouflaged in the tall grass of the savannah. Keeping low to the floor, he slid over the edge of stair, moving slowly and precisely one stair at a time to the bottom of the steps. The washing machine's window showed clothes tumbling and suds bubbling. The kitten crouched below the window and watched. He waited. His whiskers pulled forward; his pupils grew, the black, opening wide. He continued watching, waiting for the right time. He squatted on his haunches, shook his rear, and pounced - BAM! He ran right into the glass. The kitten seemed dazed as he fell backwards. Shaking his head back and forth, he cleared his mind and refocused. Around and around - the clothes were beckoning him. He pounced again.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A New Addition - SOL#16

old friends are comfortable
purring, sleeping, snuggling
old friends like routine
inside, outside, inside
old friends like quiet
a new addition
no more quiet
no more routine
walk in the door -
eating dinner - 
trying to sleep -
such is life 
with a new addition

This is the new addition.

Join Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Slice of Life: An Uncomfortable Time

I work in a private school. Every year we have to turn in a letter of intent. It's always this time of year that I begin to feel uneasy and unsure. Should I stay another year? Should I look for a new job in one of the public school districts nearby? I have a lot of anxiety around this. I love my classroom. I love my kids. I know that there are demands on you wherever you teach. I know that there are politics wherever you teach. Being in a private school though, you are dependent on the tuition from the students.

Some parents can be exceedingly demanding. We currently have a parent that we cannot make happy no matter what we do. Her child had an accident and had a concussion from it in October. He has had headaches and cannot track visually, so he cannot read anything. We are departmentalized, so each of his four academic core teachers meet with him during one of our planning times for one-on-one instruction daily. He will come to our class with other students for 10 minutes maximum one day a week. We have restructured requirements to the bare minimum for him. We try and invite him to class parties, community meetings, project work with other students, but the mother always has an excuse for him not to attend. Nothing we do is enough for the mother. We cannot make her happy. She constantly talks poorly about all of us, saying we don't care about her son. We are not including him. We are at a loss.  It is parents like these that make me not want to return. We try our hardest to help the child, to meet his individual needs, to go out of our way to do what we are being told is best for him right now. We cannot win. I know if I return next year, I will be teaching the younger sibling. I don't know that I can take another year with this parent.

On top of that the demands placed on us for retention are enormous. There is another school that begins in 5th and continues through 12th. Our school is 4K  through 8th. Every year we have a few students that leave between 4th and 5th.  It is a battle our school has waged since we first opened our doors.  We are losing 4 students next year. The administration has asked us to listen, to talk to parents when possible, to get genuine feedback as to why they're choosing to leave. The feedback we are getting over and over again is that the students have had their best year yet, but they know they're not going to keep them at our school for middle school.  The two reasons we keep hearing is because of the middle school math teacher not preparing students as well as they should be when they move to other schools, and the middle school program isn't strong. We've given this feedback to the administration. They are not listening. We keep asking ourselves, how can we fight a battle to keep our students through middle school when no one is addressing the issues with the teaching in those grades? It is incredibly frustrating. We are losing 4 students between 4th and 5th grade for next year. We are losing 16 students between 7th and 8th grade alone next year....and yet, nothing is said or done.

It's always this time of year....I don't know what to do.

Thank you to The Two Writing Teachers as always for hosting Slice of Life!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

When We Get Stuck

I signed up for a Sixty Book Challenge this year. I've fallen behind already! I started a book due to reading the many, many, many recommendations from different bloggers I admire. It's a science fiction YA book, which I usually enjoy. I find I'm having trouble really connecting. I haven't reached that aha moment when a book really grabs you and you just want to read more. I'm only 60 pages in, but I feel like I shouldn't be struggling to pick it up this much. I am finding other things to do. I'm not crazy about the point of view and the narrator's voice. I have discovered that I tend to not enjoy books written in first person as much as third person. The character that narrates is a teenager, therefore she speaks like a teenager. I appreciate the true voice coming through, but for engagement - it's not happening. So I have a dilemma...do I plow ahead or do I abandon? I have a hard time abandoning. The guilt gets me...but I find I'm doing what my students do...I'm not reading. Any advice? What do you do when you get stuck in a book and have trouble moving forward?

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life!