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Welcome to kindergarten! Join me as I share my experiences in the classroom, my professional learning and reflections and my love of teaching. Teaching is an exciting journey - come along as I share mine!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Good Old Days

I was lucky to be able to attend the All Write Conference last week. In his session, Ralph Fletcher (amazing!) talked about a teacher who used one of his (Ralph's) poems to get his students writing poetry.  He spoke about how he wasn't sure about that idea but how he was surprised at the great poetry that came out of it.  He put his poem on the screen and asked us to write a poem of our own, using his as a mentor text.  Internally, I panicked just a little!  I don't write well on the spot and I don't generally write well in a room full of people!  But, when Ralph Fletcher asks you to write, you write!  I took a deep breath, I reread his poem (for the third time) and put my pen on the paper.  I was surprised with what my pen wrote!

Sometimes I remember
The good old days.

Scrambling to put on bathingsuits
Racing to jump in the lake

Each with our own innertube
We'd swim for hours

The sun would toast us
The smell of dinner would call to us

We'd drag ourselves, exhausted
From the cool water

Grilled hamburgers, corn on the cob
We'd eat a sleepy dinner

With stuffed bellies and heavy eyes
We'd sit around the bonfire

We'd stare into the dancing flames,
Listen to the stories of lives around us

I still can't imagine
Anything better than that.


I've also been participating (somewhat) in the Teachers Write camp this summer.  I've found that sometimes I can connect with the writing prompt and take off and sometimes I can't.  I've decided that it's ok though!  When I don't connect with the prompt, I just write my own thing!  It works for me...the point is just to write! 

Yesterday, I loved the Teachers Write prompt about doodling.  I tried very hard to get into it.  I believe in the idea, I embrace the idea in my classroom, I wanted to try it yesterday.  I sat with my notebook and stared at it.  More.  More.  More still.  I closed it.  Later I tried again...I ended up making doodle pictures in the margins next to the poem.  Instead of the doodles getting me started with my writing, yesterday it ended my writing.  I guess that works sometimes too!

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Monday!

It's Monday! Join Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts for a look at what everyone is reading!


I haven't done very much reading in the last two weeks.  I've had some great professional development opportunities though!  Two weeks ago I attend a math recovery training.  It was amazing!  Last week I attended the All Write Conference.  It was also amazing!

So, what have I been reading?  Well, my notes, for one thing!  I have looked back at my notes from each workshop several times.  There are just so many great things that I don't want to forget.  I figure rereading will help commit the ideas to memory.

I was able to squeeze in two books this past week.  The first I found in a library give-away stack at the end of the school year.  It was a young adult chapter book that had been in our library but had never been checked out.  Seriously!  Not once!  The name of the story is what really caught my attention though, Jake's Orphan.  I'm not sure what it was about the title, but it grabbed me.  The story, by Peggy Brooke, takes place in the 1920's (not my usual thing) and is about a young boy who is sent from an orphanage to live and work on a farm.  The deal is, if the family likes the way he works, he will be adopted after one year.  If they aren't satisfied with him, he returns to the orphanage.  It is very different from what I am normally drawn to, but it was a good story and an easy read.

The next book is Vulture by April Pulley Sayre.  I was lucky to hear April speak at the All Write conference.  This was a book that she showed parts of and spoke about.  I was hooked by the pictures, the easy text and the way the readers can interact with the text.  I only wish I had gotten my hands on this book before the end of the school year.  There were several boys in my last this year who would have LOVED this book. 

This week:
I'm planning to dig into some professional reading with Katie Wood Ray's The Writing Workshop and Kathy Collins' Growing Readers.  I also have Same Sun Here by Silas House & Neela Vaswani that I hope to start.  HOWEVER, I have requested See You At Harry's from my library and when I get the call that it's in...everything else will be put on hold.  I've been waiting to get my hands on that one after hearing so much about it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I Wonder

I wrote this for my daughter, Avery Rose.  She's 10 months old now but I know that before I know it she'll be graduating!  She's my youngest, my fourth, my last!  I'm really trying hard to make sure I enjoy every little thing, even the hard stuff, because I know they grow so fast and I don't want to miss one single thing!  So...I'm sharing my mushy mommy moment!



I wonder what it's like to live inside your mind
to think the things you think
to feel the things you feel.

What do you think when you watch us each day?
You smile, you wave, you make your sweet little sounds
and show your love with pats and snuggles.

But...
I hope you know how much we love you!

Each day you grow bigger - I want to stop the clock!
I know you will soon be a toddler,
your baby days gone.

I love to watch you grow and change
but there is a part of me that is selfish
and wants to keep you small.

I know I will miss your 3AM cries
I'll miss making your bottles
and I'll even miss changing your diapers.

But...

I'll "let" you grow up and become whatever you decide to be
because I know that I'll always keep your baby days
in my heart, where I keep my most precious things.


For more Slice of Life stories go to Two Writing Teachers.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Chair


I'm back at Summer Writing Camp!  I had a week off for professional development and recovery for my brain after professional development!  It was awesome, but I'm glad to be back now.  I took the noun challenge today.  I went to the word generator and was presented with the word: Chair. 

I had also worked on some of the ideas for generating topics.  Initially when I saw the word chair, I was completely blank.  And then it came flooding in.  Almost faster than I could type it.  It was theraputic.  It was probably something that I have needed to write for a long time.  It is probably a topic that will show up again. 


I sat in the oversized rocking chair, lost in my thoughts.  Surrounded by the smell of anticeptic soap and the quiet beeps and not-so-quiet alarms.  I couldn't help but wonder how many moms before me had sat in that same rocking chair, heard the same sounds, cried the same worried tears, wondered the same frightening thoughts, and felt the same anxiety of the unknown.  How many moms were able to hold their babies in that chair?  How many gazed longingly at their babies that could not be held from that chair?  How many times had that chair seen the joy of going home and the agonizing, cold, gray pain of loss?  I watched the nurses check and recheck the babies, their silent white shoes, their loving touches given to both the babies and the parents who sat waiting.

I couldn't help but think about how it wasn't supposed to be this way.  How did this happen? Why was it happening to us?  How could we do everything right and still end up here?  It wasn't fair.  And then the guilt would come in, an unwelcome visitor, reminding me that it could be worse.  I might not have ever held him at all.  I might not have had the chance to sit and wait and worry.  It could be worse.

The doctor's words were still in my ears.  "Some of the arteries and veins that we will be relocating are no bigger than a single strand of hair.  We will transfer him to the machine that will pump his blood around his body bypassing his heart while we put things back where they belong.  It will take several hours but we will send a nurse out to update you every so often.  We will stop in the hallway and you can come see him briefly as we move him to the recovery room.  Then we will come get you when he is out of recovery and you can come be with him."

Tomorrow.  It was going to happen tomorrow.  I wanted tomorrow to never come and I wanted tomorrow to be over and done.  I wanted to be a month down the road...at home, happy, snuggling my newborn baby and thanking God every day for my little miracle.

The nurse put her gentle hand on my shoulder. "Can I get anything for you?"  For a moment I just stare at her, still lost.  She smiles at me and waits until my head clears enough for me to realize she asked me a question.  I am amazed by this woman.  Not only does she care for my precious baby, but she cares for me as well.  "No, I don't need anything." I reply.  Except for him to be okay.  Except for him to be at home with me.  Except...

"He's been holding steady for a while.  Would you like to hold him for a few minutes?" 

And then he's in my arms.  Gingerly, I touch his cheek, his hand, the white-blond fuzz on the top of his head.  Careful, oh so careful, watch the wires, don't bump the port.  I am in the chair, in the moment, rocking my beautiful baby boy.  Suddenly not seeing the wires and the bruises and the machines.  Just seeing him and smelling him and feeling his warmth.  Drinking him in because it's all I can do.  I don't know anything else.

But the chair is there.  The chair knows.  The chair sees it all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

P.D.

I have been participating in a professional development opportunity this week. It's a great session, great people, great information and learning! And...I'm exhausted! I completely missed Monday blogging. I tried to do my slice and writing camp post today but didn't have time all day. I found myself reading a few posts without the energy to write my own. But then...ideas started swimming around in my head. It doesn't meet the suggestions for writing camp but it is certainly a slice of my life this week! Today... I sit I think I listen I try I sit and think some more I sit I question  I wonder I dig I sit and put my thoughts together Tonight... I read I try I look back I collapse I sleep Tomorrow... I start again

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday Quick Write

This was a fun exercise - even if it was harder than I expected!  I'm not sure where (or even if) this will go, but it was fun!


“Can you believe what she was wearing today?”
“I know, right? I’ve never seen anything so hideous!  Not even my Grandma would wear that thing!”
“She’s got to be the biggest nerd in this whole school!”
“She’s probably never even stepped one ugly toe in the mall!”
“No kidding!  Oh, hey! Quick, give me your homework to copy!  We only have a couple more minutes until the bell!”

Ugh! I never imagined there would be anyone else in here, especially the only two people in the whole school that I wanted to avoid!  This is my special space; where I can finally relax and breathe for a few minutes before I have to go back out there with them.  I don’t know why I’m surprised though.  That’s the kind of luck I always have.  They are always around; in every single class, in the lunchroom, in the bathroom, and now…in my breathing room.
I have been coming to the library during lunch for months just to have a few minutes away from them.  They don’t ever read, not even when teachers give assignments, so I always knew this would be a safe place.  At least, it was until today.  I really needed it today, too. 
I don’t know why they are always so mean to me.  I’ve never done anything to them.  I’ve never been anything but nice!  I think the thing that hurts the most though, is that we used to be friends.  That is, before we got to middle school.  I hate it here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Special Place

Day Two: Teachers Write!

Hosted by: Kate Messner at katemessner.com
and Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts
and Gae Polisner at ghpolisner.blogspot.com

The task today was to complete a two-minute quick write about a place.  Then, write again, specifically thinking about what can be seen, heard, smelled, felt in this place.  Next, go there, look at a picture or imagine being in the place.  Finally, use those reflections to rewrite the original quick write piece using the sensory details that were noticed to make it better.

My Quick Write:
The trees are blowing in the breeze.  The leaves look like green butterfly wings fluttering against the sky.  The light is sparkling on the lake.  The wet sand calls to me, drenches me in the fresh water smells.  The bonfire blows it's smoke into the sky as it crackles in the fire pit.  There are burgers cooking on the fire and happy people gathered around, supervising the cooking process.  There is peace and quiet.  It's a reflection space.  A place for harmony.  A place straight out of a song...  "I get a peaceful, easy feeling..."

The Sensory Details From My List:

See - green: grass, trees, leaves, flowers, plants, seaweed, cattails
         blue: water, sky, birds, house
         white: puffy clouds
         red: bonfire, sunset over the lake, lawn chairs
         yellow: sparkles of light on the water, sunshine, my lounge chair

Hear - wind, birds, turkeys, ducks, loon, water, leaves, splashes, talking, gravel under  
            tires, crackle of the fire, piano, baseball game on the radio, country music  
           drifting from the garage, shake of the corn can, laughing, kids playing in the 
            sandbox

Smell - bonfire smoke, cooking food, seaweed/wet/water, fresh/clean air

Feel - relaxed, peaceful, joyful, calm, have lots of time, connected, entertained, slow,
          refreshed, easy going, hopeful, cozy, happy

Rewrite with Sensory Details:

The Dock

I lay on the dock and close my eyes.
There are so many things to see -
where to look first?
So instead I listen.
To the birds.  To the water tickling the shoreline. 
To the happy laughter.
The smell of burgers cooking over the bonfire drifts to me, opens my eyes.
I see above me the green leaves fluttering against the sky like butterfly wings.
I feel myself relax.  The every day is gone -
replaced by the easy going, peaceful joy.
The water sparkles before me, soothing me like a lullaby.
As I watch the sun set slowly in the sky, reflections spread out in the water,
I sit and connect...to the beauty of nature around me.  To the calm of the wild.
I hear the voice inside me
     or outside me, all around me
"It just doesn't get any better than this!"
And the voice is right.


As a child my family had a "cottage," which was really a house, on a small lake in the woods in the middle of nowhere.  At least, that's the way I saw it then.  Then, I used to wonder what I would do to avoid the boredom that was sure to visit.  Now, I long for the feel of that place.  The coziness, the peacefulness and the tranquility that comes from sitting elbow to elbow in the darkness staring into a crackling bonfire.  Solving the world's problems, sharing stories and jokes, and enjoying the company family and friends.  I miss the getting away.  I miss the quiet of that special place.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Writing Camp -- Here I Come!



With this being the final week of school, I am buried in end-of-the-year assessments, report cards, wrapping up projects and saying goodbyes.  It's always a bittersweet time of year; a time to reflect on the journey of my students and myself throughout the year.  It's a time to look back and see how far we have come, how we have changed and where we are headed next.  This has been a challenging school year: maternity leave and a new baby at home, difficult student behavior, etc.  However, it has also been a year of fantastic growth; not only student growth, but my own growth.  I'm just getting my feet wet in this writing business, but I love it.  It's in me and I can't wait to see where it goes. 

When I think about making the time to write during the school year, I have found that my writing time is after my children are in bed...and usually after my school work is finished for the night.  That generally means I am writing during my tv/relaxation time before bed.  Most of the time that is the way it plays out.  However, there are times during the school year that aren't as busy and I am able to make time during my classroom teaching breaks.  Those are the rare days when there aren't copies to make or phone calls to return or things that I want to chat about with my teaching buddy across the hall.  Now that it's almost summer, I am thinking that my writing time will shift to the morning.  Most likely, the early mornings will become my writing time.  I am most likely to catch some quiet time then...assuming I can get myself out of bed to write.  I mean, it is summer after all, right?

I am sure that the place I write and the amount of time I write will vary depending on the day.  I will make time for writing but will also have to take what I get sometimes.  I have been teaching long enough to know that while I like to think of it as having the "summer off"...there is nothing "off" about the summer.  It's just as busy during the summer as it is during the school year.  The kind of busy is all that changes.

My summer writing plan?  I'm really not sure.  Since I'm just beginning to think of myself as a writer, I don't really have a plan yet.  I'm still going with the flow for now.  Maybe this writing camp will give me some direction?  Maybe my own reflections of the past year and the next school year will give me some direction?  Who knows?

A wise lady I know is retiring after spending her whole life in the business of teaching, professional development and school leadership.  When people ask her what her retirement plans are she says with a smile, "I don't know!  But I know I will keep busy.  I'm not planning to just sit around in my rocking chair!"  As I think about my writing goals for the summer I feel similarly.  I don't plan to sit in my deck chair all summer!  I'll stay busy with my writing, but I don't know yet what I'm going to write!  But, as Pete the Cat says, "it's all good!"

Monday Reading Day!

It's here!  It's the last Monday of the school year!  Even though it's been busy with end of the year "stuff," I was able to do a little reading this week.

First, I finished Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  It was an amazing book!  A friend told me it was a book that would stick with me for a long time and she was definitely right about that. 

One of my favorite parts was the speech by the Principal, Mr. Tushman, at the graduation ceremony.  It fits so well with things I have been thinking about lately and with the end of year reflections and emotions that are always in the back of my mind during the last weeks of school.

          " ...but what I want you, my students, to take away from your school experience is the sure knowledge that, in the future you make for yourselves, anything is possible.  If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder that is necessary - the world really would be a better place.  And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one ofyou, the face of God."

I love this!

I also read the book Clementine by Sara Pennypacker.  This came recommended by a friend as well.  It was a great, quick read.  I laughed out loud several times while reading as I was reminded of my children, and those children I have had in my classroom, over and over again, seeing them in the main character Clementine.  Some favorite parts:

        "But then a great idea popped into my head.  I'm lucky that way: great ideas are always popping into my head without me having to think them up."

        "Then we just sat there together watching the pigeons flock back to our building for the night.  We listened to them cooing above us, sounding like a million old ladies with secrets."

And I absolutely love the way Clementine thinks.  She doesn't love her name.  There is a part in the book where she says that it isn't fair that she's named after a fruit and her brother isn't.  She says since the only thing worse than being named after a fruit is being named after a vegetable, so she proceeds to call him every veggie name under the sun throughout the book.  Spinach, Radish, Rutabaga, Turnip, Zucchini, Lima Bean, Pea Pod, and Celery...I laughed every time!

My professional reading this week?  Um, ahem...right, about that?  I didn't read a single line of any of the professional books I had planned to try to read.  Oh well...maybe next week!