Monday, April 21, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Be sure to visit Mentor Texts  or Unleashing Readers to learn more about It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's been awhile since I have joined the It's Monday posts. Took a bit of a blogging break, but am back and feeling much more organized. 

Last week I read:

I loved each and every one of them. For my students, my favorite might be Bugged. Great non-fiction book and I'm still telling people odd facts I picked up while reading it. 

This week I'm going to read:
We're heading to Disney World this summer. Any tips? I've been three times as a kid, but this will be the first visit for my boys. (They have been to Disneyland once.) Are you an expert? Let me know anything we shouldn't miss. (I believe we're staying at Animal Kingdom, if that helps.)

Have a great week!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

If Not For Franki...

Today is Franki Sibberson’s birthday. I am thrilled to get the chance to gush unabashedly about this amazing person. Franki is a person that I only met in real life three years ago, but feel like I have known my entire life. When I was asked to reflect on what this crazy person has done for me, I was a bit overwhelmed.

If not for Franki,
I wouldn’t have run three 5Ks
In the last two years.

If not for Franki,
I would have been ashamed of my turtle pace,
Plodding to the finish line.
She cheered me on,
And helped me find the positive.

If not for Franki,
I wouldn’t have gone to All Write.
Met so many of my friends in person.
Became the teacher I was meant to be.

If not for Franki,
I wouldn’t write for Choice Literacy.
Fearing my writing is inferior,
That I don’t have a message worth sharing.
That my writing doesn’t belong there.

Franki is the world’s best cheerleader.
Best friend.
Best force for positive energy.

I can text Franki and ask for advice,

She will research,
Find connections,
Give me direction.

If not for Franki,
I wouldn’t have half of the dreams,
I am now reaching for.
I wouldn’t know many of my closest friends.
Or be pushing myself each day,
To grow in a new way.

Franki – happy, happy, birthday.
I hope it is amazing and full of friends, family,
and lots and lots of laughter.

You have made me a better teacher,
Guided me,
Pushed me.

If not for you, this world sure would be one dull place. J
Thanks for everything!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Celebrate this Week

I’m joining up with Ruth Ayres for her weekly link-up, Celebrate This Week. Check out all of the posts linked up at her blog HERE. Thanks for starting this, Ruth!

A Celebration in Pictures

This week has been filled with emotions - sadness over the loss of our dog, celebration in the classroom and at home. I thought the easiest way to sum it up, was with a mosaic. 

Row 1: We said good-bye to Bally last Saturday. She was our child before we had children. It was hard, but I was so touched by the outpouring of love online, in my classroom (these flowers are from a student), and in the mail. We sure miss her, but are beyond grateful we got to love her for almost 14 years.

Row 2: Excitement and joy throughout the week - letters from former students in anticipation of Teacher Appreciation week, author Jaleigh Johnson was kind enough to visit, and it was warm enough to go outside for an extra recess! 

Row 3: Researching in anticipation of our author visit, spine poetry, and hanging with family - perfection.

Row 4. We have a nine-year-old in the house! Liam's gifts from us all involved the word Nerf. Jaleigh Johnson, the author that visited our classroom, is also our neighbor. I wonder if she would have wanted to come in knowing how many more Nerf darts will be stuck in her bushes after this weekend. The second picture is Liam's gift - Luke wrapped the Nerf items to look like a vacuum. Hilarious. And finally, our nine-year-old. He's getting so big! Liam gave his presentation on Walter Payton this week. I couldn't help but remember the three-year-old who cried when he went to school. All. Day. Long. Who had the speech teacher hold him because he was afraid. Who didn't speak for the first year of pre-school. Time flies. 

And if you didn't see my post yesterday, I'm contemplating on writing a book on classroom management and the importance of relationships. I'm looking for feedback on what is the biggest struggle you see with classroom management. For me, one I think of is the outdated belief that a silent classroom is a well behaved classroom. How about you? Thanks for all of the comments and emails already. You all rock! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Reaching Out: Thinking about Relationships and Classroom Management

So sorry for the radio silence here, are you all still with me? I love the Slice of Life month, but I tend to be tired of daily writing and publishing after thirty-one days straight. I’m sure there is some lesson there for my students. J

Also, we have a little guy turning nine in my home today. Our last two weeks have been filled with celebrations and parties – including one hosted here tomorrow.

And sadly, our beautiful dog, Bally, left us after almost fourteen years last Saturday. It has been harder on me than I expected. This is all to say, I haven’t written, but this blog has been on my mind.

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know I am contemplating writing a book for teachers. I’ve started and stopped more drafts than I want to admit. I’ve known for some time that I want to write about the importance of relationships, but I’ve been searching for a frame. I think I might have found it.

Each year I go to the University of Illinois to speak to a group of student teachers. This year I was told that they were struggling with classroom management and was asked to speak to that. I laughed. This seems to come up a lot, and I’m asked to speak about how I manage a classroom often, but I abhor the term “classroom management.” I have no rules posted in my room, no management system. There are days that my students are so chatty that I feel like I’m losing my mind. There are days that I struggle with the concept myself. That being said, if you took every evaluation I’ve had since I began teaching until now, the area of classroom management always has the highest marks. My former principal wrote once that my students are always focused, on task, and seem relaxed without a strict system in place. Thinking of these new teachers I was preparing to talk to, I realized there was only one reason my classroom ever seems that way – and it is the one thing I’m interested in writing about – relationships.

As I spoke to these students I realized that maybe this was the book I needed to write – classroom management in the workshop classroom. My room is seldom quiet – and I think that is the old concept – that a quiet room is a well-behaved room. I do think I have some ideas about what I would include in a book like this – if there is ever one that I acutally get written. (I have a lot of big ideas at times!) But I wanted to reach out to you. What are you looking for in a book like this? Or, what would you have liked to read when you were starting out? What struggles do you still have with classroom management? How do you think classroom management has changed over the years?

I’d love to hear anything you want to share with me! If you want to leave a note in the comments, that would be awesome. If you want help with a scenario or have a longer comment – feel free to email me. The icon at the top right of this page will take you to my email.

Thanks so much for helping me brainstorm! Please share this post if you get a chance. I’d love to hear from as many teachers as possible.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Slice of Life - Blending In

Slice of Life is sponsored on Tuesdays by Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are posting a slice each day on our blog. Join in!

Today I hurriedly got ready for school, as I do most mornings. It seems I get up ninety minutes early just so I can leisurely read Twitter, blogs, and emails. Ultimately, I get dressed and ready for school in a matter of minutes. I grabbed one of my favorite sweatshirts and, as I pulled it on, I remembered I had recently purchased some lip balm that was similar in color.
Revlon Lip Balm - Unapologetic 
Walking over to my dresser, I applied some of the balm. It was brighter than I had anticipated. Usually I wear a pretty light color of lip-gloss, nothing that stands out. I looked in the mirror and wondered, was it too much?

I decided to go with it. I liked the color, even though it was bright. Walking into school, I had several colleagues mention that they liked my lipstick. When my students came in, several of them commented that they liked it.

Jumping into my car at lunch to run errands, I glanced in the rear view mirror and was surprised to see the color popping out at me. I paused, considering once again what I thought of it. So bright, was my first thought. Why did it bother me so?

I think I have always liked to blend in, if possible. Fly under the radar. As a student, I prayed my teachers wouldn’t notice me. I sat behind the tall kids, slid down in my seat. Even if I knew the answer, I didn’t raise my hand. Open-ended assignments stressed me out – what was the answer they were looking for?

The more I looked at my lips, the more I began to like the color. Who cares if it is too bright? Who cares if some people think it doesn’t look ok? I actually like it. Looking at it, I immediately had a photo pop into my mind. 

Mumsie and I - 1996
It was 1996 and my grandmother, Mumsie, hadn’t been able to fly out to my wedding. My mom and I went to visit her shortly after my honeymoon while Chris flew to Atlanta for work. I remembered that she always had brightly colored lipstick on and I’m guessing she didn’t pause to consider what others thought of it. (If you knew my grandmother, you’d know how true that statement was.) J

Maybe my 40s will be the decade that I will finally decide that I don’t need to blend in. Maybe I can free myself of all of the teenage worries that are still sometimes trapped inside. That would be pretty awesome.

So I wore the lip balm. I even reapplied it all day. Chris walked in the door coming home from work, glanced my way, and said, “What’s up with the lipstick?” I couldn’t help but laugh. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Celebrate this Week - Podcasts

I’m joining up with Ruth Ayres for her weekly link-up, Celebrate This Week. Check out all of the posts linked up at her blog HERE. Thanks for starting this, Ruth!

This week I’m celebrating my students and our new learning. I’ve been intrigued by the concept of podcasting and have wondered how to incorporate it into my classroom. Talking to my tech director, I decided to start small. My students are already familiar with the app Audioboo. I wanted them to use it as the platform to record themselves in a group setting. Wondering what we should record, I thought of the new challenge John Schumacher and Colby Sharp are undertaking – the Geisel Challenge.

I shared the Geisel winners and honors from 2006 and 2007 with my three reading classes. Splitting into groups, kids read the book, wrote a short script, and recording their “podcast.” I’ve embedded the group of them below.

I loved trying this out with my students this week. I think there are a lot of possibilities for recording our voices in the classroom and can’t wait to explore more. Ultimately, I’d love to do two things – one, I think it would be awesome for a student to summarize our learning each day. It’s hard to catch kids up when they are absent and have missed the discussions that took place in the mini-lessons in our workshops. If someone could summarize what we did, maybe anyone who was absent could listen to that upon returning and feel like they gained some information from the day before.

Two, I think it would be amazing to have a spot to record podcasts of book reviews that the students could access and look for reading recommendations. I’ve done this before with Audioboo and QR codes. I’m debating if I want to do this in a different way or what would work best for the students. This is a conversation we will need to explore more in our classroom.

Have a great weekend! 

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