Saturday, October 26, 2013

Celebrations - 10/26/13

I love this weekly tradition of celebration that Ruth Ayres is instilling in us. I prefer to look for the good in my day on a regular basis. I have found that if I focus on the negative, it begins a downward spiral that I see more and more of the bad parts of life. I’m so glad Ruth is encouraging us all to choose to celebrate instead.

This week there were so many things to celebrate!

This lovely little sound machine is at the top of my list. I could write about it for pages, but suffice to say the “ocean” sound makes my boys sleep fabulously. The added benefit is that I’ve dreamed of living by the ocean for years – and now I go to sleep and wake up each day feeling that I do.


My classroom has been blessed with Skype visits this year and I am more grateful than I can say to everyone who comes to “visit.” This week we had two amazing authors – Ame Dyckman and Linda Urban. Both spoke to us about their writing process. My students were excited to write after each visit, which is one of my goals this year. We’re really trying to live like readers and writers inside – and outside – of our classroom. I focused a lot on the “reader” part in years past. This year I want to focus on both. Interestingly, I had the majority of my parent-teacher conferences on the afternoon of Linda’s Skype. So many parents asked who these authors were that were giving their kids writing advice – because they were writing non-stop at home. YAY!

Luke, Liam, and I have been listening to The Real Boy by Anne Ursu in the car and are at some exciting parts right now. Yesterday Luke gasped as Oscar and Callie made a discovery about the wizards and said, “Mom, do you realize what that means?” Love experiencing this book with him. Leah, Sari, and Josie are all reading it in my classroom – and all at different spots. I love talking to them about it. Leah is the farthest along. She came over to my room the other morning and said, “Mrs. S., it is all coming together and oh my gosh.”

I smiled and said, “Just wait.”

The boys and I made a quick trip to the pumpkin patch after school on Friday. I remember bringing Luke when he was three months old, and we haven’t missed a year yet. We gathered pumpkins, cider donuts, cider, apples, and bread mix. The boys laughed at how small parts of it seem now. I cannot believe how quickly time is going. This makes me a bit sad, but I do love the age they are now.

We ended our night shivering at the last regular season home football game. Senior night makes me teary each and every time. I look at these kids I remember and wonder how eight years has passed since I had them in my class. I got to see so many former students – a lot that are in middle school. I had countless book talks, conversations about expectations, hugs and words of encouragement, and more. It was a wonderful day to wrap up my week and remind me of just how lucky I am to live where I do.

Finally - my students are working on our classroom blog. If you have time in your weekend, would you mind popping by and adding a few comments? We have four newer posts up and they would love to hear from you! 

Have a fabulous weekend!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Celebrating Writing - Slice of Life

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Two Writing Teachers

Five years ago I was not a writer. Sure I wrote Facebook posts and emails, but that was about the extent of it. I’m not sure when it was that I decided that I needed to be a writer to teach writing, but it has been in the last five years and it is one of the best decisions I've made.
Best kind of PD - hosting in your PJs. 

Monday my class and I celebrated the National Day on Writing. I shared with them the Twitter chat I had hosted the night before. I told them how I was nervous before it started – to host a chat AND host it with someone I greatly admire - the butterflies in my stomach were flying. I shared with them the poem I wrote to get rid of some of those nerves. And then I shared with them my blog post for Monday.

As I spoke I told them how sometimes – a lot of times – I sit down to write and have NO IDEA what is going to come, I just trust that something will. That sometimes what comes out is complete crap – and it needs to get out. But I left them with this tweet from Penny Kittle:

I looked out at those earnest fifth grade faces. I saw the heads nodding and knew some of them were hearing me. I hope to reach them all before the end of the year.

As we were wrapping it up on the carpet Riley looked at me and said the words I dread right now, “So, how’s your book going.”

Kids stopped, they looked at me. I stammered and then said, “Not great. I’m stuck and have stopped writing it.”

A quiet voice to my right spoke up, “Well, what are you waiting for?”

Ugh. Right to the heart. Maybe I’ll get an answer for that later. Right now I will continue to put pen to paper and lose myself to the writing. Five years later, it is what I know.

National Day on Writing - Write to Connect

What does it mean to Write to Connect? I had to pause and think about that when I saw it was the theme for the National Day on Writing this year. What connections resulted from my writing?

Writing has formed many connections for me – blog readers have become my writing group. Encouraging me when I am worried that I don’t have what it takes. The comments, emails, tweets, and posts give me courage to write on when I lacked courage.

My students connect to each other through their writing. We share notebook entries and leave comments on post-its for each other – writing what inspires us, moves us, snippets we loved. This year we’re adding blogging to our writing – creating a larger audience to grow from. The students are a bit nervous about this, as am I, but I believe the payoff could be huge.
Sample journal I wrote in front of my students on an
issue that was bothering me.

Writing also formed a bond with my class last year and has already begun this year. Sharing my writing in front of them was scary – what if I couldn’t think of what to write? I felt naked – laying my soul bare at times to a group of fifth graders. I clearly remember sharing an idea or passage and you could almost feel the silence. And then their quiet comments would come, encouraging me, cheering me on, telling me I was brave. The more I shared, the more they shared back. Relationships grew over a river of words.

Before I was a teacher who wrote, I didn’t know the impact I was missing with my students. Occasionally I would write up something like I had asked them to write at home, never in front of them. I wish I could get those moments back.

Now I can stand there before them – tell them I am a writer. That we all have stories. Everyone’s story is important. Everyone’s story deserves to be shared. Our stories are woven through the classroom like an intricate spider’s web – binding us to each other. When one student moved from our classroom the other day, we had a hole in our web. Through tears I assured my students we would miss Ashanti, but she would not be forgotten. Joey looked at me and said, “Now we have one more piece to our story of our year together.” Yep, he gets it.

The connections we develop as a community of writers are real. Who will tell your story if not you? What will you write today? What will your students write?

If you have written on your own blog regarding how your students write to connect – or anything about writing in general – please leave your link in the comments below. Or, if you’d rather, just share your ideas in the comments. And on Twitter the hashtag is #write2connect to share your tweets today. Go forth and write!  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Morning Thoughts

A few housekeeping notes:

Today is the National Day on Writing! Some ideas to celebrate:

·      Write. J

·      Join Penny Kittle and myself tonight at 8pm EST on Twitter to participate in a Twitter chat using the hashtag #NCTEChat. It will be a fast paced hour with great discussion centered around writing.

·      Tweet out on tomorrow using the hashtag #write2connect sharing the ways you use writing to foster connections.

·      Write a blog post about how you use your own writing to connect – whether it is connecting your own life to your classroom, yourself to your students, or another way entirely. Please stop back here to Read, Write, Reflect tomorrow and leave your link in the comments and we can all share our ideas.

Last item of housekeeping – congrats to Sara Kajder. Sara’s name was drawn as the winner in The Real Boy giveaway. I’ll mail it out to you this week.

Hope to see you all back here tomorrow!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

So Many Reasons to Celebrate

The end of October is always a time I look forward to reaching AND look forward to getting through. Report cards need to be prepared. Parent-teacher conferences will fill my mornings, afternoons, and evenings for much of the next week and a half. That being said, I think it is more important than ever to look for reasons to celebrate when I’m feeling stressed. For that reason alone, I’m grateful that Ruth Ayres has designated Saturdays as days to reflect and celebrate.

I have so many reasons to celebrate this week that I cannot pick one. This week I am picking one item per day to share.

Sunday Luke found out that he would be playing on the fifth grade travel basketball team. I am grateful that he’s playing, but even more grateful that the coaches decided not to cut anyone. I know twenty boys for two teams is a bit high, but with no rec league and no school team, this is the way these boys will learn the sport. As a teacher who has had so many disappointed kids, I’m grateful.

Monday we had a quick trip to Chicago and back. After a short trip to The Field Museum, we met my aunt and uncle for lunch to celebrate their recent marriage. What a wonderful reason to celebrate.

Tuesday my class had the opportunity to Skype with Chris Grabenstein who wrote Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. It was our first “official” author Skype visit. I took all eighty students into our room and was impressed with how amazing they were during the visit. They loved Chris and we’re grateful he made time for us that day.

Wednesday we learned that one of our classmates was moving. When I shared the news with my students, tears immediately sprung up. When the student stopped by to gather her belongings, full on sobs could be heard from all corners of the room. As I hugged her goodbye, I celebrated in my heart. Not that we lost a class member, I’d take her back in a heartbeat if I could, but that I could clearly see that we had become a community as I looked into the teary faces of my students.

Thursday I had the fun job of passing out so many goodies from author Ame Dyckman. I had shared both Boy + Bot and Tea Party Rules with my students. We were thrilled the have such wonderful gifts to remember her books by and my homeroom looks forward to Skyping with Ame next week.

Friday a former student – now in eight grade – shadowed me for the day. In their Careers class they have to pick a person in the job they are interested with to shadow for a day. I was honored to have her with me, to spend a day talking, take her to lunch, and just see what an amazing person she has begun. Aliyah thanked me repeatedly during the day. How was I to explain that I should be thanking her?

And that brings us to Saturday. Today as I type this I hear the sounds of saws and hammers from the front of my house. A friend is replacing our front door. A door that my husband has painted my absolute favorite color – the color of my favorite Fiesta plate. Now I will smile each and every time I get the mail. That alone is enough reason to celebrate.