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.