Sunday, January 29, 2017

      I went upstairs to work on some curriculum work at my son's desk, because I needed to plug in my computer and he has an outlet.  I had just sat down, and a little voice came up from behind me. 

     "Mommy, can we read this?"

     My daughter climbed up onto my lap, and put The Dot down on top of my computer.  Of course, I can't argue with my daughter's choice of books, so we read the Peter Reynolds masterpiece.  When we finished, she decided to make her own.  I thought she meant a dot picture, but she came back upstairs with a blank book from the Target Dollar Spot and announced, "I'm better at drawing squares, not circles.  I'll call mine The Square."  (This quickly changed when her square looked more like a rectangle, so The Rectangle it became).

     She changed the characters from a teacher to Mom, and the joke that the blank white paper was a drawing of a polar bear in the snow had to switch to a seal.  I mean, seals are her animal.  And, she had to sit on my lap.  I guess Peter Reynolds and I am her muses.  He gives her the ideas, and I give her a lap of support.

     When her brother came upstairs, she allowed him to have one knee, and he also started making a book.  He decided to use a topic of his own, and chose taking his stuffed seal to school.  We clearly love seals around here.  He did the cover, and then on his endpapers he hid a seal, "just like Mo Willems would do, Mom!"  We love Pigeon, too.

     They got a few pages in, and then a snack seemed really important, and they left their shared writing space in search of food.  And, sadly, forgot to return.  But, their books are waiting to be finished, and I know that the stories yet to be told will end with a happy seal or two in the end.

     I just love that my children, who consider themselves writers, allow their ideas to start from the books they read.  One chose the story line, and the other chose the structure of the book itself.  Isn't that the foundation of author's craft that we hope our primary students receive from all those great read alouds in class?  They are a 1st and 2nd grader, who stopped their mom from doing her boring curriculum work to write stories.  What a great piece of my day! 

     Thanks, Peter and Mo, for inspiring our youngest writers, and those of us who are not so young at all.


Not to Be Political...

Thursday, January 19, 2017

     I don't do politics very often.  I have strong political beliefs (and those who know me personally know them) but I don't usually put political things out there on social media.  To be honest, somewhere along the line I was told that as teachers we shouldn't, and I am a rule follower.  

     But here I am, sitting in my family room, reading the tweets thanking Obama on his last night as president, and I am sobbing.  I can't really even see the screen very well, so I hope this is spelled correctly.  My keyboard is blurry.  Maybe I shouldn't have watched 2 episodes of This is Us in a row...

     I posted that picture of my son, who was less than a month old, 8 years ago after I voted for Obama.  There, I said it.  In fact, I voted for him twice.  

     I'm sad.  I'll put my biggest reason right here.  8 years ago, I posted that picture of my son on Facebook.  I wasn't worried that my friends or family would be offended.  I knew they didn't all agree with me, but I was a proud mom, posting a picture of my son in a onesie that was given to me by a dear friend.  I posted it before he won, so it wasn't trying to brag that my candidate won.  It was a statement about the importance of being a citizen, and a proud new mom. And there were no negative comments posted.  Tonight, I was going to post it on Facebook again and thank Obama for his time, and I was afraid that someone would put some hateful, Obama bashing comment next to a precious picture of my son.  And, to be honest, it would have probably been a close friend or family member.  So, instead, I started crying.

     What has happened to this world?

     I am tired of everyone having to be right, but no one doing what is right. 

     OK, so not EVERYONE has to be right and I'm sure that it isn't really NO ONE doing what is right, but it just seems like that lately.  We all can't agree on everything, but at this point it seems like it is more important that we disagree with people than actually try to find some common ground.  And that just makes me sad.

     So, on this last night of the Obama presidency, I am thankful for a president who spoke with respect at every public speaking event that I ever watched, even when he probably didn't want to be.  I am thankful for a president who believes that being a dad is even more important than being the president.  That is so telling.  I am thankful for his fighting for equality and coverage for all, and for taking a place in history as the first African American president.  It sends such a great message to our children.  I am thankful.

      Nowhere in there did I mention the things that I didn't like, because, well, no one is perfect.  And, on this last night of his presidency, I am showing gratitude.  My son has only known Obama as president, and I am grateful that he had a model of a great leader.

     By hitting "publish" I will feel better, because my thoughts came out in words, and that always seems to help me.  I might not tag this on Twitter, like I usually do, because I went political, and I hesitate, but I feel better. We'll see.

     This self-proclaimed "rainbow spotter" and close reader of good just saw the White House lit up as a rainbow for Obama's last night.  My coworkers changed my lightbox the other day, and now I see how it was just meant to be.  There is always a rainbow, somewhere.  Sometimes it's huge and on the White House, and sometimes it is small and almost not even there.  But, it is always there if we know to look for it.


A Little Nettle Creek Love

Thursday, January 5, 2017

     I had the pleasure of spending the day with the teachers at Nettle Creek in Morris yesterday working on guided reading with their K-5 teachers.  The topic was decided by the teachers earlier in the year, because they decided that they wanted to grow in that area.  Yesterday, they opened up their school and their students to me, and we worked together to grow as reading teachers.  

     I am so very impressed that teachers (who don't even know me very well) opened their classroom doors to me.  They allowed me to walk around the building, going classroom to classroom, looking for examples of balanced literacy in their rooms.  They also allowed me to work with their students, and as I taught three guided reading lessons, they were flexible with teacher coverage and watched in pairs in a fishbowl. Their administrator watched, too.  Then, when the day was over, we used their extended day to talk a little more deeply about the parts that go into planning well for guided reading, and made some plans to move their guided reading groups along.

     I mean, isn't that just a growth mindset utopia?  It is in my book.

     I just love that the teachers at Nettle Creek are so dedicated to their students that they not only want to learn, but trusted me to come into their classrooms, work with their kids, and allowed me to give feedback. More impressively, they asked questions and talked with each other to make plans for their students.

     Did I mention that they videotaped my lessons?  I mean, isn't that just the type of thing I tell my teachers to do all the time, and they turned the tables on me!  Marissa Darlington, you speak my language. 

     Thank you, Nettle Creek.  The sunrise you see over the fields in Morris every morning pales in comparison to your beauty as educators.  

     I urged the Nettle Creek teachers to look at this picture of my own kids at the beginning of the year, and asked them to make sure they makes "stops" along their path as teachers.  Our school hallways are a lot like that path, where the doors remain closed and we make our way to our own rooms and just pass them.  But, if we stop every once in a while and go through those doors, or open our doors to others, then we see all the beauty that is hidden on the sides of the path.  Collaboration is right there waiting.  

    I urge us all, in 2017, to embrace opportunities to learn from others in our building or across our districts.  Whether it is in person, social media, or anything in between, let's learn with each other this year.  


One Word 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

First, a little reflection on 2016...

My words last year:

     Looking back at it I feel like "Present" was a good word for me.  Reading that, though, makes me think that it could be my word again this year.  (That might be cheating.)

     I have not mastered being present by any stretch of the imagination, but I did remember that goal for the entire year!!!  I found myself referring to my #oneword in conversations even in December.  That means that I was way more successful than I had been with traditional resolutions of the past. Those were usually forgotten by January 2nd.  Somehow my #oneword became a mantra.

     I was present more of the time, but I still have trouble balancing everything.  There just isn't enough time in the day...  But, when things got crazy, I remembered my one little word PRESENT and started to prioritize things.  What do I need to do right now, so that I can be back in the moment?  It helped, and I will continue that in 2017.  Now I just need to work on keeping the phone put away.  I think time and the digital world we live in are my two biggest challenges to being present.

And now on to 2017...

     I struggled with a word for this year.  To be honest, anxiety and worry has crept into my head in recent months, for a variety of reasons.  My name (Leah) literally means "the weary" and I have always been a worrier.  But, as 2017 approaches, I worry.  I was driving to dinner with a dear friend, thinking about a word that would mean the opposite of "worry"for my one word.  We were wearing our Star Wars shirts, in honor of Carrie Fisher and her mom, because after 25 years that's the kind of friends we are.  When I got to the restaurant I checked my phone to see if she had arrived yet, and saw a Twitter notification.  That's when I saw this:

     My one word was born.

     I was born in 1977, with the name Leah, and have always lived with references to Princess Leia.  I have come to identify with her, in some weird way, as the years have passed.  I now have children of my own who love Star Wars, and a son who identifies himself as BB-8 and a daughter who has Stormtrooper dreams.  Needless to say, I was devastated with Carrie Fisher's passing.  I actually hid in my bedroom and cried, and when my husband caught me I told him I knew how silly it was to be so sad about a person I never actually met.  And then I read a tweet from George Takei, which I word swagged:

     Growing up connecting myself to the character Princess Leia (even if just by name), I learned that not all princesses are frilly and fragile.  Some of them have quiet bravery that can move us with great force, and they stand up when someone needs someone to stand.  So, filled with anxiety and worry that is oh so familiar to me, I read that quote from Carrie Fisher and found my one word: CONFIDENT.

     For so many reasons, this is the word for me.  

     I was halfway through writing this, and stopped to have dinner on New Year's Eve.  My fortune cookie reaffirmed my word choice. 

     I will continue to worry and be fearful (because I always am), but I am going to try to move with confidence towards 2017 and make it a year to remember.  Our mind is a powerful thing, and I need to remember to not let worry shape my world.  I need to be confident and have that drive me, so that I see it in my life. 

     And now, just for the fun of it, here is a Princess Leia inspired picture to start 2017. Thanks, Carrie Fisher, for helping me see part of who I am through identifying with you, and somehow helping me to remember to be fearful yet strong even after you left this world.  What a strong princess you were indeed, and you are still teaching many little princesses to take your lead.