Author Archives: Ms Victor Reads

About Ms Victor Reads

I am a third grade teacher who LOVES reading! For most of my career I have been teaching internationally. I am a big believer in the workshop model of learning and enjoy integrating technology. You can find me on Twitter @ErikaMVictor

My Own Writing Marathon

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#sol20- July 14, 2020

When Michelle Haseltine talked about a writing marathon I was in (see #100daysofnotebookingandbeyond! on Facebook). I knew the actual timing would be hard, as it would be a very late night for me, so I decided to do it at my own time.

Somehow when the day came I had not written it on my daily plan, so by the time I realized I had already done a fair bit of writing- did I still have the energy for a three-hour marathon? After lunch, I made my plan:

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Then I set up my first space:

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I kept it fresh by changing locations, forms, even notebooks/laptop:

I tried new things (prompts from Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Minh Lê,) and wrote and wrote and wrote. I got more writing accomplished than I would have predicted and while I thought it might feel like hard work to write for three hours it was FUN! I actually continued a bit past “time”. It was only after I finished and posted a quick thank you to Michelle on Facebook that I saw the event had to unavoidably be postponed, but no regrets, I am all in next time (and I even have some mentor text notebook entries and unit plans for my third graders as a bonus). Thanks to Michelle for a new to me idea!

A Reminder to Me Not to Prejudge

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#sol20- July 7, 2020

Thanks to Michelle Haseltine’s #100daysofnotebookingandbeyond! July bingo challenge I had something to write about today. I have a small pile of random things I want to one day put in my notebook, so today I chose one and wrote around it.

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I do not often save tickets or other small mementos, I have a tendency to have too much clutter, so I try to curb it in this way. Looking back on this today filled me with so many emotions, which is the way everything is striking me lately. It was a beautiful day at a lovely exhibit at a surprisingly enjoyable museum. Over and over I learn that the more I learn the more I want to learn and that day was filled with wonder as I learned more about art and my son’s hometown of that time. As an East coast city snob, I had approached my first visit to Arkansas as a “have to” trip, but by the time this visit rolled around I knew I would enjoy my time and went with a much more open mind. He moved away just two months later and this summer was going to be my chance to see my son’s current hometown before he moves on, but alas, it is not to be. Who knows what treasures I missed there? In a month and a half, he is on the move again.

Sign #2 (or 2020) My Baby Is An Adult

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#sol20- June 30, 2020

I know everyone says when you have a baby, “Time will fly!” “Blink and they will be an adult.” “Treasure every moment.” The thing is you think you have all that under control until you don’t and you blink and whaaaa… time has flown, they are adults, and maybe I didn’t really treasure every moment as I should have. I did not write as they were growing up, so there is so much misremembered or forgotten all together! Recently I have had moment 2 (or more likely moment 2,000,000) that makes me realize my “baby” is an adult. How to put that in my almost empty baby book I started for him back in 1993?

Curtis finished law school this spring (I do not say graduated because like so many others he did not get that landmark celebration). He finished and had his birthday close together so I asked him if he wanted me to combine his gifts. He is generally a very practical person, so he said yes. After much deliberation his decision… a piece of furniture. He is moving across the US back to the city where he lived as an undergraduate (DC) to begin work a law firm (he was supposed to start in late September, but due to Corona it has been postponed until January). The furniture he has now was bought on the super cheap and has served him well, but he is ready for an upgrade.

When I stop to think of it the adulting signs have been there for years, after all, he moved (himself) from Germany to DC for college, then to Arkansas for his first “real job” (where I first felt shocked to see him as an adult), then on to Michigan for three years of law school. He has done all of these things more or less independently as I have lived zillions of miles away.

I asked him to send me the links to what he was considering, as I would never choose something so important without his input. Somehow looking at the links of the desks, couches, dressers, and coffee tables he was considering made it all very real once again.

Things I learned from this (in no particular order):

  • My baby is an adult! (He just turned 27, so yeah)
  • We do not have the same tastes in everything (okay, maybe this was another shock that should not have been a shock, as he has had strong opinions from birth).
  • He is quite capable and independent, yet I am so grateful that he still lets me now as he makes some decisions (even though I know for sure there is a lot of his life he does not share with me).
  • Our relationship is still strong. (He asks for my opinion sometimes)
  • I like him as an adult. (I love him too)
  • I like having adult “kids” even though I really liked having young kids too. (My mom says this too)
  • I must be older than I think to have such old kids! (My growing model of maturity was Marcia Brady and I still do not feel as mature as her)
  • I have to remember all this when I talk to my parents. (Especially now when we do not have our usual summer catch up)
  • I am proud of the adults my kids have become. (They are good people)
  • Relationships can change and that is okay. (We have been in touch more since Corona because he has more time. I suspect that may change again once he starts his job)

The stubborn in me looked through the links and gave him a list back of the ones I would be happy to gift him because if I am going to buy something as sensible as furniture it will be something I like too. He has chosen his apartment after seeing several via virtual tours and in late August when he makes his move this little piece of my heart will move with him too. I am already thinking about the symbolism I can explain in the card I will write to him. He is an adult and will not roll his eyes in front of me (maybe).

Walking the Talk

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#sol20- June 23, 2020

Summer is always my time to recharge and if you know me at all, you know that lots of professional development is included in this. This summer, as in previous summers I am participating in the Book Love Summer Book Club (it is not too late for you to join!). Usually, I am in the US by now and have been able to get my hands on the book club books, but this is a different summer. I ordered the books through a local store, but sadly orders take about two months, so because I ordered in late May, much of the discussion will be over by the time I get my books. Luckily for me, the first book in the elementary club, Dictionary for a Better World, is available to read on Epic. Once I read it back in May I pushed it out to all of my students. I read it quickly all the way through that first time. Last week I read it again, over the course of a few days, savoring the words more carefully.

This week we are looking at the book, so today when I met with my grade 3 writing group (only one student came today) I knew I wanted to write based on the book. I had seen Kathleen Sokolowski write a nonet inspired by the book and I wanted to try my own. I started by thinking about what my topic would be and then brainstormed some words and ideas I might include.

A nonet, the book taught me is ” a 9-line poem that begins with a one-syllable line and builds to a nine-syllable line, or the reverse.”

My draft is here, inspired by the poem “Hope”:

Writer

Words

we write

who are we

making meaning

it’s all personal

our voices are our strength

sharing our thoughts as we grow

together we can be the change.

How can we make a difference now?

(obviously, there is scope for revision!)

I then was inspired to try a golden shovel poem after “Excercise” and finally a persona poem inspired by “Acceptance”. I have just seen that Fran wrote today from the same book here. This book is one that should be in every home and classroom. It will inspire so much thought, conversation, writing, and action. I cannot wait to hold a physical copy in my hands to linger over more. I can see this framing our year ahead around, as I scribbled notes to myself to connect various poems to different routines in our class. There is nothing quite like summer pd to inspire me for the year (and challenges) ahead. I am grateful to be a part of many learning communities.

Write About Us

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#sol20- June 16, 2020

We have been out of school just over a week and it was time for our first “Writing Camp”. Knowing that I wanted to write over the summer and hoping that some of my students would want to also I had proposed that we meet up on six Tuesdays this summer, for some drop-in writing.

Last night I got an email from one student asking for the Zoom link again, so I figured I would at least have one companion. It turned out that there were just three of us, but what fun we had! B. started by sharing her “tiny projects”. She has been making mini everything and showed folders, notebooks, Kindles, TV screens, Uno cards, and more that she has made teeny tiny versions of because “it’s fun!”. A., the boy who emailed last night had less to say, but watched and listened.

We decided that we would write for about 15 minutes and then share if we wanted. I talked about how I wanted to start by making a new heart map, as my summer writing might be different. A. mostly kept his camera and microphone off, but B. alternated between chat and quiet writing.

A few minutes early, B. Said, “I’m finished!”

“Oh, what do you want to do next?” I asked.

“I could add a picture.”

Then A. piped up, “I’m finished too- I can make mine better.”

A. was eager to share at the end and read us his adventure story starring his potato Olympian (we had done Potato Olympics in the last week of school- glad it inspired him!).

Before we went our separate ways we talked a bit about what our day ahead looked like and what we might do before next Tuesday. We talked about how we were missing our class and I know that is a lot of why we each showed up this morning. I have had some emails/Google chats from students, a few have posted to Seesaw, and I can see that almost all of them have checked Seesaw, who knows why. We already miss our community, and it has only been 10 days.  I mentioned that I knew I would write more later as it was my slicing day and B. said, “Write about us.” I love that these two took time to write with me today!

The last day of school already feels like long ago, yet we are all settling into this different kind of summer- a lot quieter for sure!

Summer Challenges #lifelonglearner

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#sol20- June 9, 2020

I don’t know about you, but I get a little stressed if I do not have a little routine in the summer, so I like to line up some (but not too much) summer learning opportunities. This summer, while different in so many ways, I still wanted to ensure there was some time for new learning too.

My friend, Kim, is a music teacher and she is going to be teaching a summer program on Garage Band, so I told her I would love to make that one of my summer projects too.  Tonight in our weekly Zoom after our initial conversation about what we are reading,  watching, and doing right now she started to share some of what she was going to start with her students. I am a real beginner- I know Garage Band exists and I have had some students use it in the past, but they had to be self-sufficient because I have no knowledge (yet).

She was using her iPad and sharing the screen with me but I could not hear anything from Garage Band, only her talking. We went back and forth for a minute and then I remembered something I had recently learned about Zoom where I had to have the screen I wanted to share already open before sharing to get the sound to play. With that tip, it all worked. I love that we were able to troubleshoot the issue. Kim is an excellent teacher and since I did not have my iPad with me she was having me make choices on her iPad. What I love is because of her passion and teaching skills (and the marvels of technology) I was able to create an actual piece of music in just a few minutes.

After that fun, our conversation moved on to decolonizing music and making changes in what we use as mentors to better represent world music and how “the canon” needs to represent our knowledge and beliefs better. We talked about the struggle some people have in moving on from “the way it has always been” and finding new resources for now. She talked about changes they had made in their music program over the last few years and the changes yet to come. I love having friends who are willing to do the work.

This will be a different sort of summer for sure, but I have some plans for learning (and time for not learning too). Garage Band is just a start (well, I am also reading my fourth book of the summer- not bad for day 4 of my break).

“Is there a time we could all meet tomorrow?”

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#sol20- June 2,  2020

“…It is nothing to worry about- just a couple of questions about next year.”

So went the email my team received from our principal last Thursday afternoon. Immediately we all were worried- had we done something wrong? No, we tried to console ourselves, it was likely just a question about class placements. When the EAL teacher could not make the designated time the principal emailed, “That’s fine. It is very quick and you don’t need to come we can fill you in afterward.” So we were still none the wiser. Am I the only one who still dreads “being called to the principal’s office”? Our principal is actually really nice and not scary, but old habits die hard.

Friday just before the appointment I joined the Zoom meeting and was alone… a few minutes later a grade 5 colleague joined the meeting. “Oh, so it is not just our team, I wonder who else is coming,” I said.

“No idea,” he replied.

We waited a few minutes and one by one people joined the meeting and it became clear that it was the teachers from grade 3 and grade 5.

“There’s no easy way to tell you this,” the principal began and my mind went blank.

It turns out that the evening before our school board had decided to add a section of great 3 for the next school year. We usually have three classes per grade, but there were many new applicants in grade 3 that have siblings in other grades that could be accommodated, so they made the change. What it meant practically was that grade 3 and grade 5 would have to change classrooms, as the only hallway with an “extra” classroom is where grade 5 currently is (grade 5 had to move last spring because of a similar situation).

Well, somehow that silenced us all. At the end of the second to last week of school, in our tenth week of online school, we were at a loss for words. After a minute to let it sink in we asked a few logistical questions and pretty quickly the meeting ended. It was what it was and there wasn’t anything really we could do or say.

Not how I imagined I would spend time this last week of school-packing up my classroom for a move, but really the school has been helpful. Our fabulous TA’s have been called in to do packing over the last two days. Today our stuff was getting moved and now we have TA’s who will unpack. So things will definitely not be all set up as we might like it, but bit by bit we will get there (whether that is in now or later this summer-in preparation for in person or online school- still tbd) .

Just a little something to spice up those last days of school. (The bonus for grade 3 is that we have smaller classes, but all this shifting means the timetable has had to change and other domino effects as well). I guess the lesson to me is once again, expect the unexpected!

 

 

Tottie to the Rescue

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#sol20- May 26, 2020

We are in week 9 (I think) of online learning… Yesterday was a new adventure. A few years ago, at my previous school I introduced the Potato Olympics to grade 3 as a way to add something new and different near the end of the school year. A bit of everything- math, writing, speaking, and more! Well, this year, I was talking to my friend, Kim, who mentioned they were still doing it virtually and I was excited- I had really forgotten about it. My friend, Jamie, shared what they had done and I was off and running. I knew it was just what I wanted to do in the last week of school (next week).

I proposed it to my current team, and I have to admit it, some of them were skeptical at first. With the collaboration of a teammate- I convinced them in the end! It might be that they were willing to do almost anything and it might be that I trimmed it down to three days. My teammate started the slides and I was committed to making it all happen!

Yesterday I finally decided to start work on the teaching videos, so I had to get my potato ready. Behold, Tottie…

You might not be able to tell, but in the first picture Tottie has just successfully completed her ski jump. 114 cm is now the record to beat! In picture two she is selling her “moxie”. Commercial endorsements are how we often remember Olympians- the students will be inspired by Mary Lou Retton, Bruce Jenner, and… Tottie!

I created videos to demonstrate potato basketball, ski jumping, and weightlifting. There I was, in my apartment all alone, decorating my potato friend with old wrapping paper and washi tape (and the ever helpful black Sharpie) and designing “Olympic events” that potatoes could compete in. Then, Tottie had to do some test runs to provide mentor videos for the third graders. If only I had WordPress premium you could see the fun, but suffice it to say I totally amused myself and almost missed my team meeting, leaving the game paraphernalia strewn about.

If you are looking for a way to keep students smiling in the last days of school you may want to consider the Potato Olympics. The students do not know the details yet but are intrigued by our request to bring a potato to Monday’s Zoom. My one student who never makes it to a Zoom emailed me several times the other day asking for more information. Who knows, maybe he will join in too! In the meantime I am “hiding” a potato in my Bitmoji Virtual Classroom every day to build suspense.

Hopefully the students will have as much fun as me!

Rebranding

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#sol20- May 19, 2020

Something I have noticed is this time is really demanding so much rebranding. Schools have had to drastically change their model, as have so many businesses. I have tried to support some local businesses because the economy here in Cambodia is fragile in the best of times, so I keep my eye on Facebook (in this part of the world Facebook is the primary news source).

Ministry of Cat is a local cat cafe, that had to close due to the virus and successfully fostered out all of the cats that had been living there awaiting adoption, but they did not have a huge menu (or big staff), so takeout wasn’t really something they could offer. They pretty quickly pivoted and ran a successful GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to keep their rescue operation and continued offering boarding facilities (super smart, as some expats did flee).

Then they did something totally new- they started a “line of homemade culinary products, straight from our cafe’s kitchen. Inspired by the traditional tapas bars of Madrid and Melbourne’s hip cafes, prepared in small batches and using time-honoured recipes, our condiments, sauces and relishes will enhance any dish.” Over the last few weeks bit by bit they shared the vivid descriptions of the products and I was hooked. They then built interest by sharing that deliveries would only be made twice a week, ooh, exclusivity! I perused the options and was sold on the “opening week” specials with free delivery of you ordered three jars.

Saturday my big day arrived: eggplant chutney, kefir, and dulche de leche- a rather eclectic range, is what I chose. Then those smart rebranders snuck this postcard in my delivery bag:

To top it all off, each of my choices is YUM! So, why yes, I will be subscribing, but once or twice a month… they might have dropped the ball there- I would have happily committed to a weekly delivery! I can feel good supporting a local enterprise and eat well too!

Writing from My Heart and Not My Head

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#sol20- May 12, 2020

A few weeks ago I saw that TCRWP was adding July sessions of reading and writing institutes. I have attended the writing institute twice (and been rejected for the reading one twice) and my summer was clearly not going to be the summer I pictured, so I looked at the email. The June and August applications had been available back in February and I will admit I felt a sad pang when I did not apply. Now this email had me wondering. Everyone’s summer was being turned around, I rationalized, but the June sessions were likely already over full and the August ones take place once I am already back at school (will that be a thing, I wonder). The July dates were newly announced, so I clicked through.

It turns out that the July sessions are only for newbies, so that narrowed my options- I could only apply for reading. Knowing it would all be via Zoom and for one week I rationalized that I could make the crazy timing work (it is 13 hours later here). I would still have a week once it was finished to readjust my body clock to local time.

I took the next step and opened the application. It was really only one essay question, asking which professional books have informed my practice and how. One question was manageable- I could do that I told myself. But, to protect my ego, in case I got rejected again I just couldn’t spend a lot of time agonizing over each word, I just had to write from my heart and not overthink it. I chose to write about the professional books that I had grabbed from my classroom to inform my reading instruction while we were moving to virtual learning (Reading Strategies, DIY Literacy, and Comprehension Connections and one I bought on my Kindle since, Start With Joy). It was a quick write-less than 10 minutes. I just shared why they were the books that I needed with me right now as I embarked on planning literacy for our team.  Then I pressed submit.

In retrospect, I knew I should have spent more time on it, but at that point, it was too late. A few days later I learned that the July sessions would start earlier in the day to accommodate people attending from Europe, Asia, and Africa, and that sort of felt like a good sign.

Last night I looked at the calendar and realized that although it felt like a long time ago that I had applied it really had only been 2 1/2 weeks and I knew from the past that it usually takes four weeks to find out anything. I began to feel like it would all work out and that I would get in. Then this morning… there was an email. I did get in and knowing I have that to look forward to made me smile all day! PD really keeps me energized and I am grateful to get to learn more to do better.  Now my heart and head will be more full!