Thursday, March 17, 2011

Back to Blogging by Celebrating

Life gets amazingly busy at times.  I don't feel I have lived up to my six word memoir:  "Life is great: learning and connecting."  I have learned much but have not connected.  Life is back to a simmer, so I am back to blogging. Yea!  I am going to start by celebrating the great work of the teachers and students I work with.

Smith Magazine honored my elementary school by featuring our 6 Word Stories (teacher and student versions) in their Classroom of the Week feature.  The teachers and students both worked hard and created great stories.  I am proud of them!  It is great to get the students' work to a world-wide audience.

For more information on how to use 6 Word Memoirs in your classroom, Smith Magazine has created two teacher's guides that you can download.  Also, check out Deb Day's creative writing class's 6 Word Memoirs.  They are fabulous!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Small Moments make me Smile :)

Today was World Read Aloud day.  I had the privilege of reading a short story in a new book I got during the last book fair to a group of seventh graders.  I read "Perpetual Pest" by Neal Shusterman from the book Bites: Scary Stories to Sink Your Teeth Into.  I had the students attention throughout the story.  They were laughing, oohing, and making fun of the character at one point.  In short, they were engaged.  I was having a blast.  When I finished the story, I asked who would like to read the rest of the book and ten hands went in the air.  I was thrilled!  The teacher drew names to decide who would get the book now and to determine the order of the waiting list.  A waiting list!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Moving from Good to Great

Our school board voted tonight to adopt the TAP System, and I am excited.  I have always felt that our elementary was trying to do all the right things but that we were missing something that would move us from good to great.  I believe that TAP is going to help with that.  TAP has four elements for success:  multiple career paths, ongoing applied professional development, instructionally focused accountability, and performance-based compensation.  In some form, we have included all four elements but each was an island unto themselves.  There was no connection.  The TAP System helps makes those connections clear and goes in depth into how implement each element to its fullest to help our students become more successful.  And that's what it is all about:  successful students.

Sorry tonight's slice is so short but it has been a long day.  I will flesh out what I believe TAP will mean to our school fully in posts to come.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Technology cannot replace Books

Reading is my absolute favorite pastime.  Between my mom and my teachers, I was instilled with a love for books.  One of my favorite group of memories is my mom taking my brother and I to the public library.  The library was my favorite place.  What was not to like?  There were more books than I could ever read, cozy places to sit and read, a quiet atmosphere that was calming, and a wonderful book smell.  Best of all, the books were available at no cost!  I grew up in a poor family, so we didn't have many books at home.  But who needed books of your own at home when you could go the library once a week and trade the ones you had finished for new ones. 

With all the new technology (Kindle, Nook, iPad), will books be a thing of the past?  Not in my home.  I love the smell of books, new and old.  I still love to flip through a book, especially a picture book.  Now that I am grown up and am able to afford it, I have a new favorite place to go:  the bookstore.  Two of my favorites are Davis Kidd Booksellers (independent bookstore in Memphis, TN) and Barnes and Noble.  They have the same characteristics as a library, but now I get to keep my favorite books. 

That being said, I do have a first generation Kindle which I have upgraded to an iPad.  I love to read electronically also.  It is more convenient to take my books with me when I travel when they are in electronic form...less to carry on the plane, easier to pack.

Where is spring?

Dear Spring,
Where did you go? It has been lovely weather...short-sleeve weather. Now it is jacket weather again. I am ready for winter to be over. I want to see blue skies and feel the warm air. I am ready for the trees to turn green and the flowers to bloom.

I do have a few early bloomers in my yard right now. A beautiful golden daffodil is sitting in a sea of brown waiting for you to return. I hope that its companions bloom soon and the grass turns green.

I'm ready for the blues, greens, reds, purples, and yellows. I'm done with white and brown. Spring, please come back.

Impatient in Arkansas

It would be great if you would skip past tornado season. I love a good rainfall but the severe weather I could do without.

Mural in our preschool painted by our wonderful art teacher.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cows and the Shining

I am spending part of the weekend at a National Board retreat to work with candidates.  The retreat is being held at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute on top of Petit Jean Mountain.

CowWe take the last turn onto the road that will take us to the main entrance of the Institute.  As we drive down the road, I see that the road is flanked on both sides by feeding troughs for the cows.  It is feeding time and all the cows have their heads in the trough or up watching the cars as they chew.  We are almost close enough to reach out the window and touch the cows.  It is an odd feeling to be stared at by the cows.  I feel like I imagine zoo animals feel: trapped.  I wonder what the cows think as we pass.  Do they even care that we are there or are they just focused on their dinner?

My husband is on a completely different thought track.  He sees the long drive with nothing but fields and the mountain in the distance.  "We are going to get snowed in and I am going to go crazy."  I stare at him, "We are not in the Shining."  He smiles, "How do you know?"  I laugh and go back to looking at the cows eating thinking about the upcoming portfolio entries I will be reading.

Photo Attribution:
photo © 2008 Jelle | more info        (via: Wylio)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Returning the Favor

I became a National Board Certified Teacher in December.  I don't think I will ever forget the day the scores came out.  I waited until the end of the school day because I was afraid that I hadn't achieved.  This was my second year.  I had rewritten one of my portfolios.  I had only missed the cutoff score by ONE point!  I was heartbroken my first year.  I didn't know if I could take that same heartbreak a second year in a row.

I looked at the clock.  2:50 p.m.  Ten minutes before the bell rings.  I open my laptop and stare at the screen.  One of the outside consultants our school hired comes into the room to talk about what she had seen in classrooms that day.  I'm not really paying attention even though I know that I should.  I open Firefox and go the website.  More staring.  Should I look now?  Should I wait until I go home?  I put in all my information, but don't hit enter.  In the background, I can hear the other literacy coach asking the consultant questions. I hit enter and close my eyes.  When I open them, I see "Congratulations...."  I quit reading and jumped up and shouted happily "I did it!"  The other coach immediately jumps up and hugs me.  She didn't even have to ask what I was so happy about.  We did have to explain to the consultant who was looking at us like we were crazy.

Why this slice today?  I got an email tonight to ask me to help with a National Board Portfolio Development retreat this weekend.  I agreed but I am nervous.  I couldn't turn it down though.  This retreat really helped me and I want to return the favor.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Value of a Hug

The school day has drawn to a close.  The bus rider bell just rang.  Students are making their way down the hall toward the bus door.  The sixth and seventh graders come to a stop to let the first and second graders pass by first.  You can see the impatience on their faces as the little ones walk by as fast as their little legs will carry them without running.  Finally, the last little one walks by and the older students can continue their journey toward freedom.  The last student in line (the last one every day) takes her time as she walks by.  Then she stops and I get a hug that brings a smile to my face. 

Every day J asks for a hug.  It doesn't have to be at the end of the day and it could be more than once a day.  She has a wonderful personality that craves attention.  I don't know much about her home life, but I do know that she makes each day I get a hug brighter.  I can't help but smile when she meets me in the hallway.  Most days she asks to come home with me.  I wish I could take her home.  I want her to know that she loved and valued.  But all I can do is hug her back and hope that she knows I am proud of her and want her to succeed.

What's the value of a hug?  Priceless!

Image: 'hug'

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Amen! Authentic Audience

Why blog with students?  I can't think of a better way to say this:

"This teacher's seemingly simple decision to blog about his class and publish their voices for the world to hear is one of the best reasons I know to connect your classroom and students to social media.  Something transformational happens when students (and teachers!) write, create and share for an authentic audience.  In this instance, the young artists of PS22 are not the only benefactors; it seems that adults are profoundly moved by their voices and the hope that this new generation represents.  It is simply amazing what kids can do.  Connect them to a real audience and help them find a 'real' voice."
--Your Learning Curve "Transformational Blogging"


It's time for Slice of Life 2011 sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.  What is a slice?  In a slice, a writer shares a piece of his or her everyday life and shares it with a community of writers.  For more information, check out "What is a Slice of Life?" on the Two Writing Teachers blog.  I tried last year and only made it three days.  This year I am feeling better about my writing and my blog, so I am going to be more successful.

The big, scary state-mandated testing is fast approaching and the stress in my elementary school is building to a breaking point.  Teachers and students are feeling the strain.  Four weeks until the test (with one of those weeks being Spring Break).  I am wondering, "Where did the year go?"  I feel like the year just started and now it is just a few months from being finished.  I know the teachers I work with have worked hard and the students are growing by leaps and bounds.  We are one test away from being off the dreaded school improvement list.  We will do it!  I try to show the teachers that I believe in them and I believe that we (not can but) will make it.  I don't think they see all the great things students are doing every day because of the pressure and stress.

Any ideas on how to show my appreciation to the teachers and help relieve some stress are GREATLY appreciated!


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