Monthly Archives: November 2015

Taking Time to Be Thankful

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SOL- November 24, 2015

Taking Time to Be Thankful

I was telling a colleague just yesterday that somehow Thanksgiving is my hard holiday to be away from family. We agreed that Thanksgiving has special memories to both of us of long ago, family- based times. I told my son via Skype this weekend that I love Thanksgiving because it is a reminder to me to be thankful (and I do not know about you, but I need that reminder sometimes). So today my slice is a fairly random list of things I am thankful for (definitely not in order of importance, and incomplete).

I am thankful for:

  • books and being able to share my love of them (slicing on a Tuesday means I have always just come home from my Tuesday after school activity, Book Love, and it really fills my heart with joy)- love our Mock Caldecott!
  • getting my internet reconnected after two days of not having it (it only took 25 minutes on the phone)- yahoo!
  • having time to write and read (and I really am going to try to do more of both)
  • my cat (she is good company even though she is way too clingy since her brother’s death this summer)
  • the progress I can see in my students as I slog through reports (and the goals we will set together for the rest of the year)
  • the chance I have to live in different parts of the world and explore even more (looking forward to a trip to Vietnam next month)
  • family- even though we are far apart I love them so (ack- this time of year is hard without them)
  • friends- although I do not have many I am glad to have a few (I really have to do more with friends)
  • great mentors (some I know in person and some I just “know” via their work- teaching is something I always want to improve and these people make me better
  • being a mom (even though my “babies” are 22 and 24 being a mom is something I appreciate beyond words)
  • colleagues who are both friends and mentors (I left a few of them at my last school)
  • technology- even when it makes me crazy I love the opportunities it provides for sharing, learning, and creating
  • trying new things (in school and beyond)
  • the fact that I will get to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday (pumpkin pie and all the trimmings!)
  • the fact that a student who is changing schools has the next few weeks to say goodbye (so sad- a really great kid and I will miss him)

So today I’m feeling grateful and I hope to hold those feeling through what I know will be a crazy  3 1/2 weeks until break.  Thank you for reading!

Can You Hear Them Calling?

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SOL- November 17, 2015

Can You Hear Them Calling?

Uh oh, it is the time of year when almost everything starts to distract me. It is time for…report writing! I always mean to start early- it makes sense to start early- our social studies unit ended back in October- I surely could have written those few lines for each child then, but no…

I did actually start Google docs for each child and shared them with the EAL c0- teacher two weeks ago. That is almost like starting reports, right? I even wrote a few sentences at the same time for the first two students for their “approaches to learning” section- that IS starting (hardly- 2/17 of the students had a few lines completed-pfft!). Then a week went by and I decided that I should carry a small notebook and make notes whenever I had a spare moment. That did not really accomplish much, but it made me imagine I was getting “my head in the game”.This past weekend I transferred these notes on to the Google docs, then added some more notes. Baby steps!

This week I started reading assessments- really- the long march has started in earnest. This weekend I will REALLY work on the reports (I just can not get anything like that done during the week).  I know I could get some more notes written tonight, but there are so many other things to do instead. Already I feel myself making excuses and bargains with myself. I know I will resort to rewarding myself for every chunk of time spent working on reports (hello Twitter/Facebook, you will be my treat for the next few weeks). I know my reading life will suffer (all the more reason to dive into the 6 new books that arrived this afternoon- I could definitely read the picture books tonight and start one of the chapter books, then I would have less temptation, right?).

Next week is “The Week of Common Assessments” in my plan book- the week I am going to knock out the common writing and math assessments we have to give (which should make it easier to finish reports up reports, right?).

In the meantime, I am creating lists- both physical and mental- of all the overdue emails, errands to be run, books to be read, plans to be made, meals to be cooked, meetings to be had, that will distract me from these reports- can you hear them calling?

*dashes off to read*

SOL- Communities

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November 10, 2015

Communities

All my life I have felt like I sort of belong. As a child I was in one elementary school for kindergarten, moved so one for first grade, one for second grade, and then one for 3rd-6th grade. Then we moved back to the city from kindergarten and I stayed there through high school. In high school I was one of those kids who was on the fringes of many groups, but not ever feeling fully part of any one. I liked the musical/theater kids, but did not have talents in those areas. I lhad friends who were jocks, but definitely had no skills there. I did well in school, but never excelled. That said, I loved my high school days and loved being a part of many different communities without feeling pigeon holed into one.

Fast forward to now- many years later- I am living a somewhat nomadic life as an international school teacher. The last few days I have been thinking about communities. It is the time of year in the international teaching world where people start making decisions about staying or going. The graphic and link below have been all over my Facebook feed lately.

What my brain knows now. See more on this blog.

This year I know I am a stayer, because last year I was a “newbie” and I can not go through all of that again so soon. The last 24 hours have had me really thinking about community and what it really means to me. Yesterday we had a PD day at school and on the way in I checked my email and found a note from the father of a student from last year. He was asking me for ideas for books for his son to read, so I happily answered that as soon as I got in. I love that parents know they can ask me for book recommendations- even after their child is no longer in my class. I love being that book crazy lady!

Later in the day the English Language Arts committee met and we were busy for 3 hours at our “parallel play” (translation: we were companionably sitting around a table together writing future reading or writing units for our teams- from time to time we would ask each other for advice, pass food, share a favorite resource). I love that we have established a real team and are trialing the TCRWP units of study this year, so we are all on a learning journey together- each with our own strengths and needs, but together as a community.

Today is a holiday here, so while I was up early I set my alarm to remind me of the TWT Twitter chat mid morning- good luck for me that we had a holiday, so the time difference worked out. The focus was on their nonfiction focus for the previous week- great for me as we are in the midst of a nonfiction unit. The hour flew by and I loved being a part of the community there- lots of great ideas traded back and forth (and I may have ordered some new mentor texts as a result).

Catching up on Twitter for a few minutes I saw that Mr. Schu (@MrSchuReads) was tweeting about his Skype with a class to discuss one of his Mock Caldecott choices. I remarked that I would love to have him Skype my class and a few minutes later we were making plans. This from a man I have met twice. I have followed him on Twitter for years now and he may consider me a stalker- I frequently comment on his blog, have received books via some of his giveaways, watch his weekly videos, and generally get great ideas from him (if you not know his blog you are missing out!)! This summer I me him twice- once at nErDcampMI and once at a Scholastic Reading Summit. I have to say it felt like catching up with a good friend- he is as genuine as he appears online and it was great to spend time with him in real life. I feel like people I get to know through the Nerdy Book Club community are an important part of my life- even though in many cases we have not met “in real life”.

Then I checked in on Facebook- as I had posted a question to the Units of Study in Reading group. There were answers from several “leaders” at Teachers College- all with good advice. I am so glad to be able to reach out to this group to get some answers as I try out new things and share ideas as they come up.

There are many more pieces to my community puzzle- parts from the past that will always be with me, as well as parts from my present. It is so interesting to see how they all fit together (both the in person ones and the ones at a distance) and what happens when it feels like pieces are missing. I love being connected to many different groups and I guess I may always feel like I do not belong fully to any one, but hey, I am getting used to that!

SOL- The Best of Times

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The Best of Times

I still can not get used to living in a place without much seasonal change. The Novembers of most of my memories are filled with too many layers- having to dig out the turtlenecks, warm jackets, sweaters, and boots; getting used to darkness by the time I am home from school: the knowledge that I will hibernate as much as possible for the next (almost) six months.

Living in the tropics is different- my wardrobe does not change, the clocks don’t change, there is a bit more rain right now, but not enough to change my routines.

The last few years November has had some constants regardless of the weather: Picture Book Month  and the start of a Mock Caldecott unit in my class. On Monday, I introduced both to my class. This year I was super lazy and relied on the expertise of two of the best book pickers I know, John Schumacher and Colby Sharp, and just used their list. Books are not as readily available as I would like here, but I had many from the list and have ordered the rest (hopefully they will all be in by the time we vote for our favorites in January). I shared the list with them and promised we would read all of the books that we have not yet. We posted the Picture Book Month calendar and after a quick look went on with our day. Today is Tuesday. When one of my students noticed the date on the board, she said, “Today is the day that the new Wimpy Kid book is published- when are you going to get it?” It is my fault really- I share book release dates with the students and we wait eagerly for the books to make it to Malaysia. With this book we knew it was going to be available on the day of publication  because we had seen it advertised in local shops. But this just after I showed my pile of 19 books that had just arrived from a recent online order? I was not going to go rushing to the book store- we could wait awhile.

In my after school activity (Book Love- for 28 grade 2-5 students) I introduced both Picture Book Month and the Mock Caldecott again. For a solid hour we read, wrote, shared books, and talked about books that we love. Many students “checked out” books from our classroom. I love this weekly time.

Well, it wasn’t really a surprise that after a long day of school, an after school activity, and some planning afterward,  I went directly to the bookstore before going home tonight. I bought three copies of Old School (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #10)- two for my class and a third for a friend, two biographies from the Who Was…? series (we are in the midst of a nonfiction unit and biographies are coming soon), and two board books for a baby shower I will attend this weekend. Books are always a good choice.

I can’t wait to see the excitement tomorrow because of the new books- these moments really are the best of times!