Monday, December 30, 2013

One Little Word - 2014

I have a love/ hate relationship with resolutions. I love making them, hate the fact that I don’t seem to keep them. I’m looking at you, #nerdlution.

A few years ago, I think around 2011; I stumbled across the idea of picking a word for a resolution. One little word. I remember reading the blogger’s post about the word she picked. How it had just “came to her” and she knew it was supposed to be her word for that year. I clearly remember thinking she was crazy, how would a word just come to you? But I still liked the idea. I scanned the list, picked a word that worked for me for that year, and thought about it as the year passed. Resolution kept.

In 2012 and 2013 I had the same word – be. (My post from last year is HERE.) I picked it to remind myself just to be me. My thirties have been an awesome decade – I only have two months left in them – but they’ve also been marked by anxiety. It is crippling at times, but I’ve learned to cope. As silly as it sounds, the word be helps. It has been a good word.

A week or so ago I was kicking myself for falling off the #nerdlution bandwagon. Exercising daily, writing daily, it was just a mess. My husband chided me, pointing out that in much of my life I’m either all in, or all out. One word flashed in my brain – balance. I knew I needed more of it in my life.

I sat at my journal, absentmindedly doodling. I realized that I was looking at what balance was for me – taking care of my mind, body, spirit daily. That doesn’t mean I have to run for thirty minutes a day. Taking care of my body might be focusing on water instead of pop one day. Getting in some type of workout in. Eating more fruits and vegetables. Looking at my mind, I need to carve out time for what sustains me – reading and writing. I need to declutter so my mind isn’t stressed by piles and messes around our house. But also, I need to focus on my spirit. This can be prayer, meditation, or even time with my family.

My life is a bit out of balance. I’m online a lot. Some of that can’t be helped, some can. I need to regain the balance, and I’m hoping my word will serve as a reminder for me this year. My plan is just to put balance in the forefront of my mind and give myself a score each day – one point for each area that I did something positive in that day with a three being a perfect score. Simple, but that is what I need.

As for the classroom, I will be sharing this with my students and encouraging them to think of their own words if they feel moved to do so. I don’t think this would be beneficial activity to require of them, but something they need to own, if they would so choose. Reflection is good. It is through it that we grow. I’m already looking forward to 2014; I think it will be an excellent year. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best of…

2013 - It has been quite a journey...

It’s that time of year, the time where I turn to blogs and read the “best of” posts.  I have written a “best books” list before and was tempted to do one here, but decided to add more to it. Here is my “best of 2013” list. A bit random, a bit fun, a bit about me.

Best Books
Have to start here. I’m going to limit myself and just pick two books in each category. I’m not going to think about it, stress about the ones I missed, nope. Off the cuff, here they are:

Picture book: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and Journey

Chapter book:  The Real Boy and Center of Everything

Young Adult: Paperboy and  Fangirl

Non-fiction: The Animal Book and The Boy Who Loved Math

Poetry: What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings and God Got a Dog

Graphic Novels: Bluffton and Poseidon

Best Posts
Well, it’s hard to define “best” here. Most popular? My favorite that I wrote? How about one of each.

My most popular post was: How do you know they are reading?

My favorite that I wrote this year: A learning experience

Honestly, I was thinking that the first one was my favorite until I realized it was also the most popular. Mainly it was my favorite because of the kiddo that inspired it. I dearly love Josh and miss my class from last year. Not to say I don’t love this year’s group, I do. But I carry all of my students with me and think of them often.

I ended up selecting the second post as some of my favorite writing because it was a hard lesson and was still raw when I wrote.

Best Teaching Decision
To spend zero minutes doing test prep. I’ve never done much, but often about three weeks before the state test I would begin working through example questions as a class. Last year I reflected. Did that really help anyone? What if I taught, as usual, right up until the day we tested? What then? And I did. Our scores were great and I don’t regret that decision for a minute.

Best Parenting Decision
This is kind of a teaching decision as well. I chose to put Luke in my rotation for fifth grade. He is not allowed to be in my homeroom, but I could be his reading teacher. Otherwise, he would go in the other fifth grade rotation. I first asked Luke what he thought and he wanted to be in my reading class, so we went for it. 

I love teaching him. As he would probably be the first to tell you, there are some downfalls. I’m harder on him than the other kids. I absolutely know if he’s reading at home or not. With my other students I can only make an educated guess. If Luke doesn’t read, his grade drops. That being said, I know him better now than I did in August. I know his friends better. It is a whole new level of relationships with your students when they’ve talked to you about books in your basement while you’re on the treadmill. Another level when you have had breakfast together in your pajamas. 

Best Purchase
In flight Wi-Fi on my Southwest flight from Chicago to Boston and back. I’m a notoriously bad flier. I have massive anxiety. I knew I would be alone, I didn’t know how I’d manage, so I ponied up the $8 each way and used Twitter to distract me. That and saying the serenity prayer a few thousand times kept me sane.

Best Professional Development
Twitter. This isn’t to say that NCTE, All Write, MRA, or other conferences aren’t worthwhile, but Twitter is PD that I depend on all year long. It keeps me motivated and inspired in the months between conferences.

Best Memories of 2013
I’m putting a caveat here – best memories related to reading, writing, teaching, or something connected to it.

- Ivan winning the Newbery
- Bubble Gum Day
- Slice of Life Challenge with my class
- Going to MRA and meeting Margie
- Walking field trip with my students to Farm School
- Saying goodbye to one of my best classes. Knowing what our connection meant.
- Reading Camp
- All Write
- Michigan for Nerd Camp and vacation
- Choice Literacy writing retreat
- Tweeting for Choice Literacy
- A new school year
- Skype visits
- Mock Caldecott Unit
- Nerdy Party – meeting Linda Urban and Peter Brown
- Liam finishing Wonder, Luke finishing The Lightning Thief series (and Chris as well!)
- Reading my students writing at the end of the first quarter
- Reflection on how much they’ve grown already

And there you have it - my “best of” list for 2013. It was an amazing year and I’m confident 2014 will be even better. I cannot wait to see what the future brings.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Celebrate this Week 12/28/13

What a week to Celebrate! Thanks to Ruth for gathering these weekly celebrations on her blog. I’m grateful for the time to sit down each Saturday morning and reflect on the past week and realize just how blessed I am. As in past weeks, I’m celebrating through photos. Description of each is below the mosaic.

Moving across the mosaic, this week I'm celebrating…

Row One:
·      Clearing out clothes the boys have outgrown, or that Chris and I don’t wear. Our home feels lighter now. It had been awhile since our last Goodwill donation.
·      My boys automatically pull out books to read to their young cousin. I love that they know how important reading is. I love that Vivian enjoys being read to.
·      Waiting to come down the stairs on Christmas. I tend to torture them, putting cinnamon rolls in the oven, straightening up the house, anything to make them wait longer.

Row Two:
·      My parents with their grandchildren. This photo just makes me happy.
·      My cousins, who are actually closer in age to my sons. I love that my cousins are so amazing with my boys. They are our most requested babysitters by far.
·      My parents and my great-uncle. We’ve always called him Colonel, not sure why. He finds the craziest gifts for my dad (like the red sleigh two photos before.) The gifts are always thought out, with a story behind them. I love that he surprised my dad again this year.

Row Three:
·      The boys and Chris’s mom. Glad she was able to spend Christmas with us again.
·      Our high school basketball teams host a tournament over Christmas break. They let Luke’s team of fifth graders scrimmage during halftime. The boys were so excited to play in front of that big crowd. I was proud of Luke for taking three shots, he worries he won’t make them and doesn’t tend to shoot. Super thrilled he made one in front of that huge group. Grateful to the crowd for paying attention to these kids during halftime and cheering them on.
·      Lazy days. Our schedule this break has a few events scattered on them, but more days with not a thing to do. I love that. We’ve had so little down time since summer, days filled with reading, puzzles, movies, and hot chocolate were needed.

Hope you had a wonderful holiday and are enjoying some down time of your own! Happy Saturday! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas from our family to yours. I decided to take some video this year after watching the Apple commercial where a young boy did the same. Here's our result: 

I love it. Hope you do too. Christmas goes way too fast, at least I can look back at this year's holiday a bit. Hope your day was wonderful! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

I joined Twitter in June of 2009. I remember joining on a whim, not really thinking anything about it. It was right around when Ashton Kutcher had bet Ted Turner that he could beat CNN in the race to a million followers. Ashton won and now has over fifteen million followers, CNN just over eleven million. Not sure what this says about our society.

And yet, I joined. A teacher in my area said that Twitter was excellent professional development. I logged on, started following that teacher, the teachers she followed, some authors, some tech folks, and I waited. Slowly, I began sending tweets. I became online friends with some of the folks I met. I grew as a teacher. I found my tribe.

It is not a flippant remark to say that Twitter has changed my life. Because of it I have traveled to national conferences, presented at those, began a blog, became published, began the dream of a book, and met some of my closest friends. Even knowing all of that, I am still floored on a regular basis by my Twitter community.

Yesterday I found out that a friend will begin teaching in a middle school classroom after Christmas break. I was beyond excited to learn this, but wondered how I could possibly help her out. When I started thinking about it, I realized she wouldn’t have much of a classroom library, if there was even one at all. I started scanning my shelves of my bedroom for YA books I loved, but don’t need to keep. It wasn’t much, but I got a small stack started. Then I thought of my twitter friends and sent out this tweet:

I didn’t expect much, but I knew many of us were just at NCTE. Sometimes I grab some YA ARCs and read them, but then pass them on to others since they can’t go into my classroom. I figured if anyone else did the same, maybe I could grab a few books from a couple of friends and send those to her too. Within minutes of my posting the tweet, author CA London sent me this one:

And on it went. So many people have messaged me, so many more will. I am humbled and grateful. I knew my friends would likely send a book, but folks I’ve never met beyond the world of Twitter messaged. I am grateful for my friend, for her students, and just for myself. This past week I saw some ugliness on Facebook, folks being mean to be mean. I despaired for our world. Yesterday and today have served to remind me that there is so much kindness, so much goodness out there. You just have to decide where to focus. I choose kind.

Happy Holidays!