April 28, 2015
I Wish You More
I started this post several different times not including the prewriting I do all week thinking about my post. As I sit here after a long day I am still a bit stuck for words. We had an early dismissal today so that our faculty could work with an expert on “child protection”. As I sat there I was thinking about the morning we had just had with our third graders. For the last two days, we had a team of scientists in working with our students to help them learn more about space. The kids were excited and were learning lots- I am certain they had many ideas bubbling around in their heads on the way home today. The professional development afternoon was a chance for us to have important discussions, develop shared understandings and language, and find ways to do our jobs better for the students we have. As I sat here getting ready to write I found myself remembering a book I read this morning before school. I Wish You More, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, was a book I had ordered long ago. This morning a package of six books was waiting for me and I hurried to label them but took a few moments to read this one. The book is short and sweet, but the message stuck with me. It is about always wanting more for our kids, but not in just the tangible, material ways. I think this is what we want for our own children, as parents- particularly poignant for me at the moment, as my younger son will graduate from college in three weeks and sadly I will not be there. It is also what we want for the children we teach. We want them to be the best that they can be and we support them as they move along. We want them to have amazing experiences, enjoy their lives, and love with their whole heart. This afternoon I received a lovely email from a young woman who is about to graduate from high school. We first met when she visited my former school and I introduced myself to her and her family as they toured. It happened to be Pajama Day in the elementary school and I was wearing my fuzzy purple bath robe, a fact that has stuck in her head for the 4 or so years that we have known each other. She was a high school student, so never a student of mine, but we were involved in activities in common. Today her quick email was just to let me know that the seniors had Pajama Day and she thought of me and that she is off to the college of her dreams in the fall. It made me happy that she took time out of her studying to send me a kind note.
As is often the case, when I start thinking of an idea I see it everywhere. Today I was struck by I Wish You More. It is part of what I love about being a mom, a teacher, and a friend. Today I am thinking of ways that I can be more, bring more, do more.
April 21, 2015- The Book Crazy One
I know that part of my struggle in moving was reestablishing my work persona. I “knew” who I was at my previous school and so did my colleagues and the students. At a new school it was the opportunity to decide what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to ditch of the me I was. I wrote a Nerdy Book Club blogpost this summer about how important it was to me that people would quickly learn that I was a reader. I brought 32 boxes with me to Malaysia, 18 of which contained books for my classroom, so I started out with some of my favorites making the trip with me. On the first day of school my students saw me up on a table raving about my love for books (thanks to Colby Sharp’s inspirational video). We talk about books a lot. We share books, we pass around books, we “follow” favorite authors and illustrators, we have Skyped with two superstars (thanks to Erin Dealey and Tara Lazar), we tweet with others, we have participated in several events sharing our book love, and we read, read, read and our community is different within our classroom.
In the second semester I decided it was time to branch out and expand beyond the classroom. At our school it is mandatory that every teacher offer and after school activity once a week for a semester, so it was now my turn. I offered “Book Love” to grades 2-5, indicating that we would read books, write books, and create book trailers. More than 20 students signed up and we have had ten sessions by now. We do all that was advertised, and so much more. This diverse group of 7-12-year olds has established a new community. We love to watch book trailers for upcoming books, share digital review copies of soon to be published books, write new books, read aloud, read to ourselves and talk books. When I pass these kids in the hallway they will often share what they are reading and bring in new books to show us. It is a highlight of my week every week to spend time with these kids as we are involved in what we love!
Due to Malaysian tax laws I have to stay in Malaysia for nearly a month after school ends at the start of June. Our school runs a summer program for half days for three weeks, so I jumped on board for that. What would I offer? “Books, books, books” is what I came up with. It will be a fun time with two different groups- first and second graders in the early session, then third through fifth graders. I will introduce them to different genres every coupe of days and they will write and illustrate their own books. Some of my current students have signed up, some of the “Book Love” students will join too, bu the best part is that students I do not even know yet are joining in. I have already had students ask if I will offer “Book Love” again next year, and my answer is, of course, yes. I think it is safe to say that I have established myself as “the book crazy one” at my new school and I could not be happier about that!
April 14, 2015
I have been thinking a lot about living alone lately- mostly because I do live alone. Moving here I was choosing my first ever alone place. After university, I shared apartments with other people until I got married. Then for years I was married and lived as two, then three, then four of us all together. Once I got divorced it was back down to three. Then my first son went off to university, so it was down to two again. In 2011 my second son was off to university. He came home for breaks, so it was kind of a practice for living alone. Flash forward to 2014 and I was moving countries again- this time off to Malaysia and moving alone. I love the apartment I am living in and the location is just right for me, but there are real advantages and disadvantages to living alone.
I love: not needing to check schedules with anyone else, knowing the mess is all mine, doing less cooking, not having to be extra quiet if I am up early/late, not having the TV on -ever, always being able to have alone time, having my own space.
I do not love: junkier eating, always being in quiet, knowing the mess is all mine, nobody to talk to after a long day, loneliness, being lazy about decorating, it feeding on my tendencies to stay in more and work more.
When I turned 50 (two years ago) my mother noted that it looked like I would be the third generation of women in our family to live this stage of my life alone-hmm. There are definitely positives and negatives (as there is with everything)- so I just have to make the situation work to help me be the best me. My goal is to be more social, so that will help with some of the negatives.
Just a few quiet reflections here in Kuala Lumpur.
April 12, 2015
It was the first week back after Spring Break, so a little tiring, but good to be back with my students! This week I celebrate:
- Books- It was great fun to share all of the books that I bought over break and hear all about the reading the students did!
- March Book Madness- Tony Keefer’s excellent book tournament had my kids hooked! It was funny, that we established routines. One student would grab a marker to circle the winners, another would call out which books had been eliminated, and because we have learned that we tend to get excited, it all starts with one student closing the doors, so we do not disturb our neighbors too much. It ended this week but definitely achieved the purpose of getting kids talking about books. Next up for us will be the Children’s Choice Book Awards. We have all but a few of the books already in the classroom and there are some favorites!
- Earth and Space- We have started a new science unit and the students are so excited! We will naturally focus on nonfiction reading and writing and looking for great mentors. The students have so many questions!
- Slice of Life Challenge Reflections- I gave my slicers a few small gifts (all students got a new pen and slicers who sliced 25 or more days got a purple pen too, while 30/31 day slicers got an additional highlighter or sticky note pad). Several students commented on how the challenge has really affected them as writers and how they plan to continue- ahhh…
- Learn Like a Pirate- As break ended I started reading Paul Solarz’s new book. I have recently been reflecting on how my class this year is not as student-led as I would like, so I looked to this as a way to get some ideas. One simple start was to give the students the responsibility of calling a “Give Me 5” moment. We practiced that this week and I have already seen that it is a small tweak, that has a lot of potential. We have to make sure that the person calling the moment is loud enough, otherwise it loses its immediacy. I look forward to trying out other ideas. I love that it is never too late to make changes- why wait for next year!?
I am so glad to be able to reflect a bit on what made my week special! Have a great week ahead!
April 7, 2015
My first non SOLC slice!
Today in class we tried out a poem from a suggestion in Kate Messner’s 59 Reason to Write. I decided to try it too. In it you use the digits in your phone number to tell you how many words to write on each line.
visiting family, friends, seeing new places,
looking for adventures, quiet, reconnecting, pausing, new energy,
reading, writing, talking, traveling, visiting,
hurrying there to relax, bored
always making memories
I am thrilled that some of my students want to continue slicing Tuesdays too! You can check out their posts on the right side of our class blog.
April 5, 2015
- Spring Break- need I say more? I am just ending a week off of school- I LOVE my job, but I so appreciate breaks. I was a little worried about this break, because none of my friends were going to be around and I am not good about doing things alone, but I found the break very peaceful and just what I needed. I perfected alone time and will be ready for the hive of activity that is our classroom.
- Books– I *may* have been to the book store four times this week as of this writing. I have bought 20 new books for the classroom (and read about half of them). I loved having extra time to read and mixed it up- I read professionally, kid lit, and even read a Louise Penny mystery. One book I read was Kate Messner’s 59 Reasons to Write and I was so surprised to see that a letter I had contributed to the Teachers Write website the summer before last was in the book! Wow! What an honor!
- Writing– Which leads me to writing! This week I finished the Two Teachers Write March Slice of Life Challenge. As I reflected there I really was not sure that I would be able to complete the whole challenge, but I did and it felt great! I was also so happy to have my students involved as well. More than half of my third graders sliced 25 or more days (with at least 8 of them slicing daily!). It was fun to try out new formats with them and see confidence grow as their writing came alive. It helped me see myself as more of a writer, which has to be a good thing.
- Music- In Berlin many of my friends and colleagues were musically talented (as are my sons). I miss having music be a regular part of my life. I have gone to several concerts at the Malaysia Philharmonic and have been impressed, so this week my plan was to attend two concerts- ALONE. As I said above I do not do as much on my own as I should, so this was me pushing myself. Tuesday the Youth Orchestra played with their adult counterparts. I sat next to a teenager who is a part of the youth orchestra and he gave me some good background knowledge. Friday night was a jazz night, with a conductor, trumpeter, pianist, and drummer brought in from the US, all supported by the MPO. It was meant to be a celebration of Mardi Gras set in New Orleans and it was so fun! I am always so surprised that the concerts are not better attended here, as I think they have a good venue and talent.
- Planning Ahead- I enjoyed having time this week to plan ahead for our nonfiction/research unit. I think I have gathered resources and ideas for reading and writing that will help make this unit on earth and space great. As is always the case once you start looking for something you see it everywhere, I found some good online resources, looked over books that I have, and purchased some more. I also finally booked my trip “home” for the summer. I will be in the US for 3 weeks and will try to make it a good mix- I will attend nErDcampMI (Michigan), the IRA Conference (St. Louis), and visit a friend (Atlanta). I will also get to spend time with my immediate and extended family in Boston. It will be a quick trip but will allow me to see 3 cities I have never been to and relax a bit.
I hope the week ahead is great for you!