Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Making Summer Goals

Summer so far...
The school year ended last Wednesday. This means I've been on summer break for six days. It has begun like all summer breaks. I've slept, a lot. I can't even stay awake past 9:30 pm. Last night I was reading a book and the next thing I knew I heard it hit the ground. No idea when I fell asleep. The end of the school year seems to be akin to having a newborn. I get through it, but barely. While I'm living it I often think, "I've got this. No problem." It's only when I have some distance do I realize how completely exhausting it was. 

This year ended with more to do than usual. I packed my room and am still moving it. I've attempted to help the teacher taking my spot get a great understanding of what she's going to be doing. I've tried to figure out my new room and what I need to be prepared in a little less than 90 days. I also finished two college courses and am currently preparing to begin two more. Just typing it makes me realize why I'm so tired.

But summer is here. Summer, and a remodeled kitchen, means I can actually cook for my family - huge meals filled with yummy desserts and healthy food. I can tackle items on my "to do" list like painting bookshelves for my classroom or going through my closet. I can read with abandon, find time to write, and begin a new running program. Summer gives me time to focus on it all and make new goals. It is something I've been longing for. 

While goals are something many of us do in January each year, I like short term goals. I have a better chance of achieving them. So I am sharing my summer goals here in the hope that it will keep my accountable. I also believe a lot in speaking my goals out loud. For example, six years ago I promised my boys I wouldn't leave fifth grade until Liam got through it. (They both were irritated I was moving up a grade.) I said that I'd begin to look for a job at the middle school after that. Low and behold, Liam is now through fifth and I'm moving to the middle school. With that in mind, let's see where these goals take me for the next few months. 

Summer Goals 2016:

  • Run 100 miles. I'm cheating a bit, my boys are doing this for Cross Country, so I thought I'd join them. So far I have four miles done. I walk a mile daily, but then I drop Rosie back at the house and head out on a run. I am out of shape and this needs to change.
  • Read a book a day. By my calculation this would equal 81 books. 
  • Journal 2-3 times a week. I've completely stopped journaling and want to add it back in. 
  • Blog at least twice a week.
I have lots of items on my "to do" list, but these are my goals, not necessarily things to check-off. 

How about you? What are your goals for summer? Do you have a busy one stretching ahead, or is it relaxing? Wishing you well, whatever your summer entails. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My To Read Books

Today marked my last day of teaching Language Arts to my fifth graders. We have school tomorrow, sure, but it is centered around things like inflatables and games. Today was my last day to teach fifth grade. 

It wasn't a normal day, for certain. Circling the perimeter of the room were boxes upon boxes. 2/3 of our classroom library was crated up, boxes were waiting for former students to come in the afternoon and move them to the middle school. As I looked out upon the faces of my fifth graders, it was a bit bittersweet. 

We talked about moving on. I read the book I Wish You More. I had them give me feedback on the importance of classroom libraries and the importance of audience on a Padlet - both are topics of presentations I have this summer. And finally, we settled in to discuss "to read" lists. 

By this point of the year they know that readers make plans, and they've been making them all year long. I shared with them that I read a book-a-day in the summer, following along with Donalyn Miller's hashtag on Twitter. (You can find more info on Donalyn's blog HERE.) And then, I showed them my to read stacks around my house. 

They laughed, for the most part. Reminding me of the books I still haven't gotten to this year that I had wanted to read. I told them I'll never be caught up, but that I loved the simple act of being able to finish one book, stroll over to my shelf, and grab another. We talked about how cool it is that the middle school library is open for them this summer if they want to check out a book from it. It was a great morning.

So what's on your to read list for this summer? Any great seventh grade recommendations for me? While I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to my students, I cannot wait for days that stretch out endlessly and some fabulous books. 

And tomorrow I have to show my students this photo. Coming home today I found four more books had arrived, thanks to a generous publisher. My to read list has grown again. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

What I'll Miss

My fabulous homeroom
I've been doing a pretty good job looking forward, listing everything I cannot wait for regarding my move to middle school. At the top of the list, behind teaching the new age group, would be the air conditioning and lack of 35+ stairs to climb each day. But, if I'm being honest, the one thing I will miss is my homeroom. See, I'll still have a homeroom there, but I don't think it's the same. In my building I'm with my homeroom just a bit more than all my other classes. I take them to specials, have an extra 30-60 minutes per day with them, depending on the schedule. And by this point of the year we know each other well. Too well at times. It's a bit like being snowed in with your family for a week. We need time apart, but we know each other better than anyone else.

My homeroom kids know me, they get me. Three girls immediately gasped when they saw that my current read (for myself) is Blood of Olympus. They know I've put off reading it for two years because I'm terrified I won't like the ending. They've told me - my former student Hayden has told me - that I just need to read it already. But still, I've waited. Today I decided it was time to dive in. The girls patted me on the back. One said she was proud of me for facing my fears (I had to laugh at that comment). 

The end of the day found us with 30 minutes of extra time, so we read. The kids were in various prone positions around the room, absorbed in their books. I fell into mine, the room melting away. As I read, I grew nervous. One of the main characters, Jason, was in a rough fight. And then, it happened. He was stabbed, dying. I closed the book and looked up. Payton looked at me from across the room, considered my expression, and said, "Just read." 

"But, Jason... his guts have just been stabbed. I can't..." I tried to explain.

Payton grinned, "Read it. It will all be ok." Lydia, Zoe, and Estella looked up and me and laughed. They tried reassurance, but I was having none of it.

I told them if my favorite characters are killed off in this one I'm never forgiving them. I told them I thought I should just stop. Some boys looked up from their books and gave me some looks that indicated I might have gone from their quirky teacher to downright nuts. Many of them smiled and whispered, "Read it." So I plopped back down at my table and began again. 

We're at the finish line, nine days left of school. The kids are squirrelly, they're fighting, making bad choices. I think I used the word "crap" at one point today. I really wanted to use the term "asshats", but I refrained. And yet, there is no where I'd rather be, no one I'd rather spend time with. Tomorrow I'm heading back and will share where I've reached in the book tonight. They know me, I know them. While I anticipate loving middle school and middle schoolers, the experience with a homeroom in elementary school is unique. This is what I'll miss. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/16/16

I love joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers each week to share my reading life. 

Let's begin with my confusion over the date when I went to type it above. How on earth can we be halfway through May already? That phrase the years are long but the days are short has really proven true for me of late.

My reading quantity is nothing to write home about. I've read four books - two novels, two picture books - in the past two weeks. I've also written 40 pages for two finals and gotten my class grades back for the two classes - 99% and 100% respectively. We can talk about the ridiculousness of needing to take those classes later... Finally, I have begun the work of packing my classroom before the end of the school year. 

So my reading life, not great. Then a friend texted me that she had just finished the final book in the Raven Cycle and needed to discuss it. She had an extra and would be mailing me that one. That led me to think, had I read book 2 and 3? I rushed up to the "to read" shelves in my bedroom. Searching, I found both books. I flipped to the back and read. Nope, hadn't read either. Young Adult books often get pushed to the back burner for me. To keep up with middle grade books for my students is an undertaking. Trying to find time to read YA, if it isn't a book my book club picks, is tough. But reading the back of those books transported me back to book 1, which I loved. Stiefvater is flipping BRILLIANT. So, I began book 2. I had to reflect a bit, remembering back to book 1 that I read at the end of 2012, beginning of 2013. It didn't take long and I was completely immersed again in that world. I flew through book 2 and 3, devouring the words, wishing the books were longer so I wouldn't finish so quickly. 

If you haven't read this series, remedy immediately. I love the world Stiefvater has created. I cannot wait to get book 4 and find out what she has planned for these characters. I'm nervous because she pulls no punches, and I am very attached to the four main characters - Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Blue. I'm terrified they won't all make it, but I have to find out. 

Up next? Finishing off another series I should have already by reading Riordan's Blood of Olympus. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

It's A Great Day to Be a Sage!

Our school mascot is the Sage. The "Sage" is known as a wise owl. I love the uniqueness of our mascot. I love that our mascot is tied to wisdom. And most of all, I love that our superintendent constantly says, "It's a great day to be a Sage." This is at the end of every speech I've ever heard him give, every automated call that goes out, everything. And, as always, he's right.

Today I had so many opportunities to live this saying of his. I spent the morning with my new seventh grade colleague for next year. We planned, got to know each other, and laughed. I talked to the principal of the middle school I'm moving to and felt blessed once again. I saw some former students while I was visiting and had some whispered conversations about books. 

Returning to my fifth grade classroom after lunch the students wanted to know how my visit had gone. I realized how blessed I am that I get to work with these cool kids each day, that they care enough to see how I'm doing. That they know me well enough by now to know the move is stressing me (the packing part) and are consistently looking for ways to help. They were just as excited as I was about a letter I received telling me I got a grant I applied for that will impact my seventh grade classroom. Such amazing kids. 

After school I watched with a happy heart as my oldest son worked at track practice. His coaches worked with the team to prepare for sectionals tomorrow. When we came home I mentioned that he had mail. To our surprise the letter was from a high school coach mentioning they had noticed his hard work and were cheering him on for sectionals. Wow.

Sitting down and reflecting on my day I realized just how glad I am to live, and teach, in this community. My superintendent is right, it is indeed a great day to be a Sage. 
I used to have a super cool pin with the saying. It fell off my backpack,
but I love my Sages bracelet. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/2

I love joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers each week to share my reading life. 

This week was PARCC testing in my classroom. I pledged to read a book a day during testing and finished the first three books this week as a result. 

This week I'll focus on the middle grade books. Counting Thyme is an amazing middle grade novel that follows the story of Thyme. She and her family have just journeyed across country so that her little brother, Val, can be a part of a special treatment for cancer. Thyme isn't thrilled about leaving California or her best friend behind, but wants the best for her brother. 

Wish Girl was a book on my "to read" stack for an entire year. I'm not sure why it took me so long to get to it, but I'm thrilled I did. Peter and his family have just moved to the middle of nowhere, Texas. His family has one volume, loud, but in the midst of all that noise, they fail to really see Peter for what he is. He escapes the noise of their house and finds a magical space outdoors where he meets a girl named Annie, a "wish" girl. Their friendship is beautiful, as is this story. 

The Girl in the Well is Me follows the story of Kammie. New to town, she has been trying to fit in with the popular girls. Unfortunately, she now finds herself trapped in a well and she cannot get out. The book is told from the moment she falls in and you experience her frustration and panic as she realizes that getting out is not going to be easy. As Kammie begins to lose oxygen, she starts to hallucinate, imagining her dad, coyotes, and more are down in the well keeping her company.

The final book I wanted to talk about today was Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies. This is not necessarily a book I would gravitate towards, but it was an important one for me to read. One of my students read it and LOVED it. She gave it to me, begging me to read it. Sometimes it isn't important if a book is my kind of book. I need to read what my students recommend simply to teach them that I value their recommendations. In this case, I found a fun novel about a girl, Celeste, trying to deal with the pitfalls of middle school when you are overweight and your friend has abandoned you. I can't wait to tell Payton in my class that I finished this one this weekend. What a great reading week!