Monthly Archives: January 2016

Trying to Be a Writer

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SOL- January 26, 2016

Trying To Be a Writer

Last week I loved, loved, loved Donalyn Miller’s Nerdy Book Club post about getting on the bus. I wobble between being a reading ambassador and a reading warrior. I am that book crazy teacher- always asking students what they are reading, recommending books to readers, reading books, buying books- you would be hard pressed to name a reading “event” that our class does not participate in. I even share a document of “Literacy Events that 3EV  is participating in” with my colleagues in hopes that they will join in. I shared her post at school and beyond and thought hard about what else I could do to get others on board.

Then Sunday Kathleen Sokolowski wrote her own rallying cry about why teachers should write. Again I found myself nodding my head and wondering how I could get more of my colleagues involved in writing. Here’s the thing, though- outside of my classroom most people who know me know me as a reader- it is a part of me that I share willingly. It is obvious once you set foot in our classroom. My writing self is quieter. I have blogged sporadically for a few years. I took part in last March’s Slice of Life Challenge here and have sliced regularly since then. I even had my third graders participating in the Classroom Slice of Life Challenge last year (and plan to again this year). I ahve participated in Kate Messner’s Teachers Write  since its inception (and a piece of my writing even made it into her 59 Reasons to Write. This year I am using the Teachers College Reading and Writing Units of Study and I LOVE them. As a result, I am doing more writing than ever with and for my class. I continue to see that as a fellow writer I can teach writing better, which is reason enough to write. I am also learning that I can teach myself better, as I reflect more in writing and learn more about myself this way. I think it is time that I tentatively make my writing self more public as I continue to try to live a more writerly life. For me, I feel like reading and writing make me a better me. It is hard to explain how both feed me and make me want to be more. As a reader, you will often hear me roar- I have strong opinions about everyone being a reader. Now it is time for me to take the new layer of writer on to my shoulders (while I am not ready to roar I am ready to take up the cause- let’s call it a growl). I am excited to work with others to help me be a better advocate for literacy in its many forms. I feel like these are gifts that keep on giving- the more you love these things the more you can pass on.

I look forward to trying to be a writer more in 2016!

The Joys and Trials of Being a Lifelong Learner

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SOL- January 19, 2016

The Joys and Trials of Being a Lifelong Learner

A colleague made a comment recently about me being a lifelong learner recently and while it is certainly true it can be a double-edged sword. That got me to thinking about the pros and the cons (and I definitely believe there are more important pros than there are cons).

Pros:

  • I get to keep things fresh and try to improve (I am applying to TCRWP this summer because I desperately want to learn from and with them)
  • I get to benefit from other people’s research via reading their books, blogs, etc
  • I always know that next year’s lessons will be tweaked based on new learning
  • I get to work with colleagues to refine things
  • I get to share ideas with colleagues near and far
  • I never feel “good enough” (I only recently have read lots about Imposter Syndrome and I recognize it in many ways)
  • I love my job and want to work hard to be better
  • I have mentors that I respect (both in real life and those I just “know” virtually)
  • I like to try new things
  • I am a reflective person
  • I like to set goals for myself

Cons:

  • I sometimes have to learn the same lessons over and over
  • I know that next year I will tweak most things
  • I hate the status quo- because “we always have” is not a good reason for me
  • I never seem to have enough time to accomplish all I want (I recently joined the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club  to try to improve my efficiency)
  • I do not reuse my lessons well- I tend to start each unit as a blank slate without pulling up last year’s unit
  • I tend to overanalyze
  • I am a big fan of growth mindset but have a hard time believing that some of my “not yets” will turn into strengths

After reading this over I notice that in some cases my pros and cons could easily be reversed- I guess it all depends on my perspective on any given day. I am definitely someone who gets excited about learning when it is something I have chosen and that is an important reminder to me as a teacher to build in choice whenever possible.

SOL- Looking With Poets’ Eyes

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SOL- January 12, 2016

Looking With Poets’ Eyes

We have just begun a three-week poetry unit and I am already amazed by my students. We looked at a few poems and after initial discussions the depth that some of them went to was impressive. We took a walk around our school this morning trying out our “poets’ eyes”. We stopped to make observations in the hallway, the community room, the grade 5 common area, the library, the wonder area, and the peace garden. We spent only a few minutes in each area and the students were using their brand new notebooks just for this purpose. After returning to class, the students chose somewhere to sit and wrote for 10 minutes. After some sharing time, we started reading Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog. We read the first two pages (probably about 50 words) and then talked about what we knew already about the characters and the story. After much discussion, I showed them the short passages we had read and we marveled at how the author could get across so much in so few words. This will lead us perfectly into an upcoming lesson about big ideas being in small packages. It was so rewarding to see the students sprawled out across the room reading poetry- reading it aloud with friends, talking about what they were thinking as they read, playing with the sound of it all.

Coming back after a lovely break it is refreshing to look at life with poets’ eyes and I look forward to the places we will go with this vision.

#WRAD16- Week 1-Belonging

I am looking ahead to the second semester (starting in two days) and eagerly anticipating the many exciting literacy events we will celebrate in our class. While I am too far away to participate in some (boo hoo- ALA is in my “home” town NOW!), some are easy to participate in wherever you are. World Read Aloud Day is a great way to celebrate reading and we will.

LitWorld has come up with a countdown in the form of the 7 Strengths Countdown, with the focus this week being “belonging”. The prompt this week is: When has reading helped you feel like you belong to a community?

As an international school teacher, my sense of community is always in flux. Reading has been a constant in my life as long as I can remember. A big way reading has influenced me in the last few years is via The Nerdy Book Club. I have been able to stay in touch with the kid lit world as a result of the blog and follow many of the contributors on Twitter and on their own blogs. This has also introduced me to the world of digital review copies of books, as review copies are not available worldwide. This summer I was lucky enough to attend nErDcampmi where I was able to meet many of my kid lit idols. Being a reader made me feel so connected to this community and I really felt like I was meeting friends. What I love about reading is that we all belong!

 

OLW- Joy!

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January 5, 2016

SOL-OLW- Joy!

I have been thinking about my 2016 One Little Word for the last few weeks. I started a list, read posts by others, and thought some more. Words I considered included: be, spark, mindful, intentional, more, and present, but joy is the word I am going to focus on this year.

I have just returned from a 15-day trip through Vietnam. What struck me throughout my time there is how warm the people are. I had so much fun exploring with new friends and sharing snippets with old friends. It was a challenge for me to be without any family over the Christmas/New Yer time period and I was not sure how it would feel. It was a good reminder to me that I have to celebrate little things.

Arriving back in the early morning hours of the 3rd, I used yesterday to mentally prepare for the new year. I bought a “joy journal” where I will record at least one moment of joy each day of 2016. I also set my Goodreads challenge for the year, as reading brings me such joy (note to self- I am going to try not to pressure myself unduly about my reading- I set a goal of averaging a book a day over the break and I am woefully behind- looking for the joy, I have enjoyed the books I have read so far). I bought myself several other notebooks too, in part because I want to push myself to write more, but also, because I want to start a “for school” writing notebook. In addition, I subscribed to the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club- I know that I can be more productive with my time and this is a way to nudge myself to work smarter.

I am going to try to inject more joy into my life- I tend to be very solitary, and this is okay, but sometimes I do need people around me, so I am going to try to push myself to be more active socially. Tomorrow I am meeting a friend for lunch and on the weekend I will go to a ballet with another. I am already looking ahead to future breaks and look forward to visiting friends in Berlin (where I lived for 11 years) to catch up. I have signed up for two workshops in April (Visible Thinking and Rethinking Literacy) and I look forward to both. As I continue to pilot the new Lucy Calkins units of study I am eager to get training and will definitely apply for the summer institutes. Learning is one of my greatest joys.

I am also looking for ways to bring even more joy into my classroom. I struggle with balancing all that I feel I must do and sometimes lose sight of the things that I know are good for the kids in the hustle and bustle. The last day before the break we held our first class EdCamp and I want to build in more student-led initiatives. Starting back on Monday I will have my students choose their own word- we talked about it before, so they know that it is coming. My hope is that this will remind them that it is our class (not mine) so that we all support each other as we work toward our goals. I can’t wait to see what words they choose.

I am looking for new ways to find joy in my own life and share joy with others. In choosing “joy,” I am considering the many sides of joy- the giving, taking, and finding joy. I want to be more aware of the joy in the every day. I am thinking that the focus on joy will have the added benefit of creating a thankfulness and more peace. I look forward to joy in 2016!