My classroom is not a quiet, orderly place.
Students are constantly moving, thinking, talking, reading and writing.
I do my best to help my students find success.



December 18, 2012

In Search of Smiles

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At 8:45 I popped my head out and checked on the students on the playground.  Two second graders came running up to the door.

"Hi, Mrs. R!"  they chimed, smiling ear to ear.

"Good morning!" I replied.  I talked with the girls and a few other students about staying off the muddy field. I told them I would get my coat and see them soon.

Earlier, our principal and social worker had lead an early morning meeting centered around how our staff should react to what children might ask about the Sandy Hook tragedy.  There was discussion about locking our classroom doors, what to say and not say to our students.  Very little of the discussion was about how to take care of ourselves.  Most of our staff looked tired and anxious.

I knew what I needed:  fresh air and some smiling faces.

I grabbed my coat and told my friend, Michelle, that I was heading out to the blacktop where most of our students line up.  She decided to join me.  I greeted every student and adult with a smile.  I made lots of welcoming remarks, noticed cute hats, baby sisters and red noses.  We talked about the muddy field and our wishes for snow.

In return I received lots and lots of smiles.

Now I was ready to start my day, teaching and learning along with my students.

A smile goes a long way.  I hope everyone can find a smile (even a small one) this week.


November 27, 2012

Tuesday's Verbs

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Scene:  Home
Toss, turn
Sneeze, cough
Hear, ignore, press, repeat
Jump, coax, prepare, frown, smile, sigh
Shower, dry, dress
Remember
Change, pack, race

Scene:  School
Chat, brainstorm, thank
Meet, teach, coax, smile, 
Eat, copy, staple, panic, breathe
Teach, read, listen, laugh, scold, compliment
Greet, facilitate, smile, share, reflect
Carry, drive, call

Scene:  Home
Juggle, drop
Kiss, hug
Drive, pickup, listen, coach
Text, understand
Eat, smile, chuckle, breathe
Fix, fill, check, kick, fuel
Sort, fold
Sit, think, read, type, slice

November 20, 2012

Back in the reading habit


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Hooray!  I've been reading L O T S of books since last week.  I'm feeling better about my reading (too bad I have a cracked filling and a stuffy head... but that's a different slice) !!!

Here are some books I read that are worth a shout out!

This adorable story by Paul Schmid finds Petunia in a power struggle with her parents over the animal she thinks would be a perfect pet.  My 4th graders cracked up at Petunia's verbal meltdown in the middle of the story.  I love the beautifully simple purple illustrations.


Elizabeth Levy has a great protagonist in Cassie.  She's a middle school girl with a retired football player for a dad.  Cassie bounces between mom's house and dad/stepmom's house.  Things get interesting when Cassie is asked to try out for the football team, even though she hasn't played since she was 7 in the Pee Wee league.  I love Cassie's perseverance.  

These were my favorites from this weekend's reading.  Next up on the to-read list (see my list on Goodreads) are:




Happy reading to all during this holiday weekend!  I'm so thankful for the time to spend with my family, friends and BOOKS!

November 13, 2012

Excuses for Not Reading

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Many of my students (and lots of adults I've met) have lots of excuses for not reading.  

I was on FIRE this summer, burning through lots of books and adding them on Goodreads.  In the past two weeks, I've found myself in a reading slump.

Here's my current list of excuses.  

I haven't been reading because....

I haven't been to the library in a month.

Every time I try to download an ebook from the library, I don't finish the process, exit my cart and lose all my books.

It gets dark at 5:00 now.  After coming home and waving the dinner wand, I reallllly don't want to go out again.

I've read nearly all the books on my shelf.  If I haven't read them, those books aren't interesting to me.

I haven't had time to read my usual book-loving blogs to add new titles to Goodreads.

I haven't been to the library in a MONTH!
(My husband joked that he expected them to call me and check that I was okay.)

I've been working hard on keeping my classroom papers in order.  When I look up at the clock, there's no time left to read.

I'm looking for a new book, author or genre to get me excited.

<sigh>

I've run out of excuses.  Time to find something to read....and quick!

November 6, 2012

Taking Care of My Customers

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at Two Writing Teachers


When I need a quick lunch during the school day, I like to stop at the Culver's near our school.  Sure, their burgers are tasty and the custard is yummy, but the reason I keep going is their customer service. Everyone who works there has a smile on their face, even when it's busy or they are taking out the trash.  They will stop by your table and clear your place if you are finished eating.  They always thank you for coming.

I'm trying to recognize the customers in my life and treat them very well.  Sometimes it's tricky (when working with demanding adults) but most times it's very easy (when I see students).

My customer service habits include:
  • Smiling and waving at students I see in the hallway.
  • Chatting with students as they unpack their bags or wait in lines.
  • Practicing great listening skills.
  • Thanking colleagues for new information, papers, or stopping by.
  • Ensuring my students that I'm glad they came to my class and worked so hard.
  • Reminding former students that they can borrow books from my room.
  • Trying to smile -- even when I'm tired, crabby or frustrated.
  • Being approachable
What are your customer service skills?  I'm glad I've reminded myself to keep smiling.  

October 30, 2012

Eyes on the storm

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On Sunday and Monday I couldn't stop watching the media and coverage of Hurricane Sandy.  My thoughts were with the residents of the northeast.  I've never lived in a hurricane-prone area, and I think those living in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey really thought they didn't either, until recently.

I joked with a coworker that I needed to turn off my empathy button, focus on my students, and forget about people facing days of rain, wind, downed trees and no power.  But I realized that my feelings of empathy are impossible to turn off, especially when there's a big storm.

Ten years ago, we experienced 7 inches of rain in one night, and back then I could sleep through thunderstorms.  I woke up the next morning and walked down to our finished basement to get some clean clothes.  As I stepped down from the last step, my foot squished into the carpet.  My mind could not figure out why the carpet would be wet.

We soon discovered that our basement had flooded with sewage because the previous owners had connected the basement bathroom right to the sewer line.  There was no check valve or overhead sewers (I've learned about these now).

I'm embarrassed to admit that I cried as we threw away toys we couldn't wash and tore up nearly new carpeting.  I remember stressing out at my grandmother's house as I washed the 10th load of laundry, crying that I couldn't deal with one more sewer-soaked towel.

We flooded twice after that storm, and both times we were able to contain the flood to a small area.  We finally fixed the sewer connection, and our hope is that we won't have to deal with that mess again.

Every time I hear that high waters and wind will threaten people I love or barely know, I can't help but feel for them.  Yes, water damages our stuff, and it can be replaced, but the idea of dealing with such a mess makes my heart hurt.

Today I looked at the devastation the hurricane caused in many places.  I wish the residents of the northeast strength and stamina as they deal with a huge interruption to their lives and a massive cleanup.

October 23, 2012

Second Guessing

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It's my 10th year of teaching in my current position, at my current school.  This year (for reasons I can't pinpoint) I've taken on a bad habit.

Second guessing.

I'm second guessing my instructional practices.
I'm second guessing my outlook on literacy.
I'm second guessing letting my students have free choice as well as leveled text in their book bags.
I'm second guessing nearly everything I'm doing.

It's exhausting!

On the other hand....

I'm great at brainstorming ideas for the classroom teachers in my building, always with the caveat, "I don't have a classroom, but have you thought about....?"

But then....

The more advice I give, the more I start to second guess what I'm doing and how I'm doing it.

I've always tried NOT to compare myself to other teachers, but then I launch into excuses.

"She's able to try that because her students have more language skills."
"She can accomplish that because she's more effective at behavior management."
"She just wants to impress others."

Second guessing makes for long days, upset stomachs and little sleep.

Maybe I should follow the advice I give to so many colleagues, especially our newest teachers:

"Pick one thing.  Dig in.  Research.  Try. Reflect. Try again.  But only pick ONE thing."

Time to find that ONE thing.  Time to stop second guessing.


September 25, 2012

Assessment Takes Time

Slices of Life stories are hosted by Two Writing Teachers

Names
Data
Faces
Numbers

All these pieces of information are floating around in my head, waking me at 2:00 a.m.

Finish
Decisions
Best Practice
Paper everywhere!
 
As part of the instructional resource team in my building, these past two weeks have been spent on deeper assessment.  The initial screeners (DIBELS, IDEL, AimsWeb) are finished.  Now we are using the Fountas and Pinnell benchmark system to figure out instructional text levels of our students who may need extra resource help.

Accuracy
Comprehension
Decoding
Word lists

I have been pushing myself (and my team - sorry, ladies!) to finish quickly, but I've learned that the quick way isn't the best way.  These assessments take time, and it's time well spent.  We are lucky - the classroom teachers value what we are doing.  I haven't heard anyone questioning our assessment plan or how much time it is taking.  I'm thankful for that!

Carefully
Concisely
Completely

I'm now focused on taking the time to read with each child (no matter how long it takes) to get the most complete picture of their reading, considering all the components.  Assessment leads to instruction.  That's the point.  We're spending our time well.

Trust
Confidence
Patience

September 11, 2012

Motivating Readers

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The reading team at our elementary school is trying something new this year.  We are trying to send one main message to staff and students about reading.  Our LRC director was kind and gave us the first chunk of lab time to deliver our message (thanks, Lynn!). Here are our talking points:
Notice our enthusiasm!

  • Reading is great!  
  • Find good fit books! 
  • Read anywhere, anytime! 
  • Read the genres you like, but don't be afraid to try new genres! 
  • AR points are good for tracking reading, but don't worry too much about the points! 
  • Talk with your friends about what you read!
  • Ask people (adults and kids) about good books!
  • Keep reading!
I've been really pleased by how many students want to contribute to the discussion.  When we ask the students to talk with a neighbor about where and what they like to read, the room starts buzzing with conversation.  When we've asked for examples of genres, the kids know what we are talking about.  

Can you imagine what will happen in the classrooms where the teacher continues the conversation, and builds a community of readers?

I can't wait to find out!!!




August 7, 2012

Library Love Fest


My public library is my MOST favorite place in my town, and I've had some of the best moments there this summer.
  • I met up with friend Becky, from high school, who thought my public library was the most amazing library she'd ever seen. (Then we went to the most fabulous bakery that's right across the street!)
  • I introduced Michelle's twins to the incredible Enchanted Forest in our children's section.  They loved "meeting" the Very Hungry Caterpillar and sitting in a little house to read.
  • My younger teen daughter was excited to pick up TTYL (written by Lauren Myracle in online chat speak) and The Battle of Jericho by Sharon Draper (a fave author).  This was exciting for me, but the cherry on top of the sundae came when we stepped into the magazine section.  She couldn't believe all the different topics she could choose from (Birds! Fashion! Hollywood!)
  • I joined the adult reading club and already won a nifty bookmark with seeds to plant in the garden.  One more book (we only had to read 8... no problem here!) and I win another prize!
  • I have become a regular customer of the "book holds" area.  One day I got four emails telling me my holds were in.  I felt like a celebrity!
I wish everyone could have a library, as cool as mine, and within walking distance from their home. 
I wish the library was open 24/7, so anyone could get a book anytime.  

I wonder if the library would ever consider having an overnight, lock-in event.  My friend Becky and I thought (at the very same time) how cool that would be.

Do you love your library?

Slice of Life stories are hosted by
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July 24, 2012

Worry

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My aunt has a magnet on her refrigerator,
"Don't worry. I've got it. --God"
I've always wanted to embrace that idea.  I can't.  If worrying was an Olympic sport, I'd be a gold medalist.


My Great Granny Antoinette led the way for me.  I was her understudy, listening and watching her worry.  I thought it was a little funny.  For example, when she'd arrive at a party, she'd ask my Granny (her daughter and chauffeur), "When are we going home?"

Granny's response would always be, "What are you worried about?  The bricks leaving while you're gone?  Relax and enjoy yourself!" (Granny was a very happy-go-lucky lady!)

Relax.
Enjoy yourself.
Don't worry.

These words are easy to say but hard to live by.  I can find something, anything to worry about, just give me a few minutes.  My husband claims that I thrive in worry and chaos.  Sometimes he says I worry just to worry.

I don't.  Okay.  I might.  If I worry, no one else has to!

Don't worry, I've got it!  --Chris

July 17, 2012

#Summerthrowdown update

Tonight ends the first round of the #summerthrowdown reading challenge.  Three of my Tweeps (people I follow on Twitter) enjoy challenging each other (and their classrooms) to outread each other on a regular basis.  Then the idea of a summer reading challenge came together, plotting librarians against teachers.  It's been great fun:  reading like crazy, logging our reads on a spreadsheet (we count average number of books read) and giving stats/cheering/pouting on Twitter.

I've got a pile of picture books to read tonight, in addition to a few early chapter books that I found at the library.  My plan is to read until my eyes bug out of my head (those pesky #LeagueOfLibrarians have been ahead for most of the throwdown).  We're counting picture books as 0.25, books 50-150 pages as 0.50 and novels over 150 pages as 1.0.

Care to join the second round of the throwdown?  Check out heisereads.blogspot.com for details on Friday!  Thanks so much to Brian (@brianwyzlic), Jillian (@heisereads), Sherry (@libraryfanatic) and Kathy (@thebrainlair) for a great #summerthrowdown!

Now back to reading!!!

July 10, 2012

Summer time

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A song from my daughter's first grade classroom keeps popping in my head...to the tune of the Adams Family theme song...
Days of the week (snap, snap)
Days of the week (snap, snap)
Okay, I can't remember how the rest of it goes, but it names all the days of the week.

Since it's summer vacation, I'm having a terrible time remembering what day it is!  I've dutifully added everything to the calendar, and I'm able to distinguish the weekends from the weekdays, but oh boy, don't ask me what day it is!

I think this is a very good problem!

My husband is traveling for work most of the summer, so that makes me the grown-up in charge (hahahaha!).  My mornings have a routine:

wake up
take girls to summer school
walk with Cindy
come home

Once I'm home, I get completely lost in Twitter, blogs, books, cleaning up the kitchen, laundry, shower, organizing something, decide to organize later, reading, moving papers around, back to the computer, more reading, did I dry my hair?, sending out some emails....

Poof!  It's time to pick up the girls, feed them and shuttle my oldest to sports camp.

I try to do something outside the house in the afternoons, but since last week was SO hot, I ended up repeating lots of my morning activities.

Can someone tell me what day it is?
Nah, don't bother, I'm on summertime!

From *Mary* on Flikr

July 3, 2012

Gratitude

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It's been an emotional few days in our community.  One of the moms in the circle suddenly passed away, leaving two high school-aged daughters and a husband behind.

Tragic.  Awful.  Unfair.  Terrible.

I had not met this mom, but I still grieved.  Here was a mom, close to my age, gone so suddenly.  I got goosebumps every time I spoke with someone about her.

During this emotional time, I felt the need to find all the blessings and wonderful things around me.  I needed to find the sunshine and blue sky amid a dark storm.  I needed to stay strong for my friends who were close with the mom, and for our girls, who were trying to find ways to comfort and stay strong for their friends, her daughters.

Today's gratitude list is brought to you by a tragic event.  I definitely plan to start valuing the people around me on a more regular basis - even when the silly, stupid stuff in life brings me down.

I am grateful for...
  • my husband - a man I've known for 30 (!) years, who I drive completely bonkers on a daily basis, yet he's my number one fan
  • my daughters - they are my two favorite people.  I love coaching them and yes, nagging them, to be the best people they can be
  • my friends - I have friends from grade school, high school, grad school, my neighborhood, work, Twitter and blogging.  They've helped me to figure out who I am, and have helped me realize that I don't need to worry about what anyone else thinks
  • my family - parents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents (RIP, GP!)
  • my sense of humor and (mostly) positive attitude
  • BOOKS, libraries, authors, and all the nerdy book people
  • chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate chips, the cacao bean...tee hee!
May you find the blue skies and sunshine during your next emotional storm, or help a friend through their storm. 

June 26, 2012

Keeping busy

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Whew!  I think I need a vacation from my summer vacation!

I've been a crazy cleaning machine this summer:

  1. Open closet.  
  2. Purge.  
  3. Organize (sort of...)
  4. Put some stuff back.  
  5. Repeat.

It helps that my youngest, who likes to keep things, is at summer school and poms camp for most of the day.  She came home to a leaner closet the other day.  Too bad my oldest wants to deal with her own stuff, on her own time.  (She is our most organized family member)

I haven't called many friends to get together because I've been too busy trying to dig out my house from the school year.  Of course, the office and the bookshelf haven't been touched.  I think I have selective procrastination!

When will I run out of steam?  I'm not sure.  I wish I could handle some of the things on my husband's honey-do list, but I think he's a much more capable carpenter.  I still have to leave him a few things. (Sorry, Jeff!)

How many weeks of summer left?  I'm sure I won't run out of projects!

June 19, 2012

Book love!

I went to the library today.  HOORAY!  It was a cool respite from the oppressive heat in Illinois today.  I had placed a book on hold and was hoping it was still on the reserve shelf, but it wasn't.  I raced back to the juvenile section and checked the shelf.
Not there.
I checked the computer.  "Being held for someone" was the status.
Back to the reserve department to interrupt the lady at the desk.
"I was 10 minutes from putting this book back into circulation. It's your lucky day!"
(Really, I have transportation and a library card - it's always my lucky day!)

The book I was lucky to get is See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles.




How do I describe this story?  It's realistic fiction, at it's best.  You believe that the characters could be the family that lives next door.  The emotions are raw, the experiences believable. The dialogue carries you quickly through the book.

I didn't want to rush through this book, but I had to finish it today.  I couldn't find a good stopping point. I had to keep reading.  I tried to choose my favorite character (Ran? Fern?  Holden?), but I couldn't.  I understood and could relate to them all.  

It's hard to describe what the story is about without giving away too much, but Holden is dealing with starting high school and fitting in, Fern is stuck watching her little brother on top of middle school woes.  Their family runs a restaurant and deals with stress on a daily basis.  You'll feel like you're part of the family as you read.

Don't miss this book!

June 15, 2012

Motivation


I spend summer in a bit of chaotic state - no rigid schedule most days.  I do relish the hours to do what I need to do, but more importantly, I can choose what I want to do.  This year, I've agreed to walk with my neighbor Cindy each morning after the kids head off to summer school.  We've walked three days straight, for nearly an hour each time. 
Do our legs hurt?  A little.  Do we count the miles?  Nah. 
Do we talk and laugh WAY too much?  Yes!
I told Cindy the second morning, "What if we run out of things to talk about?"
She replied, "Not possible!"

Chatting makes the exercise easier.  No subject is off limits.  I wonder what some of the neighbors think when they hear snippets of our convos as we walk past their open windows!
Will our walking streak last all summer?  Who will be the first to stay on the couch?  
(Probably me, but we won't judge!)

Stay tuned!

June 12, 2012

Summer Plans

Since my girls are teenagers, my time commitment as "cruise director" is dwindling.  This leaves me with LOTS of time over the summer to do things that I enjoy (and/or need to do).

Here's my list of summer plans:

  • Inspire my teens to read each day - this may have to include bribery or threats ("If you want to keep your pool pass, you'll put text in front of your face!") but I hope to keep it positive!
  • Ride my bike if I need to run an errand or visit the library.  I got a new bike and a cool bag that connects to the side (fancy!).
  • Try to limit my trips to the kitchen! (I'm a snacker!)
  • Read The CAFE book by the Two Sisters, cover to cover, and make some written plans to implement CAFE strategy mini lessons for my 4th and 5th grade small groups this fall.
  • Participate in the #cyberpd book club hosted by Cathy, Jill and Laura.  I always come away with great knowledge from the book we read (this year:  Opening Minds by Peter Johnston) and our great discussions
  • Read LOTS of  books for the #bookaday and #summerthrowdown challenges, and post what I read on Goodreads and Twitter, and (hopefully) this blog!!
  • Organize the paperwork stuffed in the drawer and the pictures in my coffee table...maybe!
  • Enjoy time with my family and friends, without the stress of heading to work each day!!!!

June 5, 2012

"I'll Miss You!"

Today I quipped to our kindergarten assistant, "I must be wearing a shirt that says HUG ME!"  I couldn't make it two steps into the hallway, as the kindergarten groups passed by on their way to fine arts and gym, without getting at least 5 hugs.

I signed over 50 yearbooks during our 5th grade softball game, and I heard many times, "I'll miss you this summer."

As one of the first graders left school today, she asked if she could give me a hug.  Usually she's very preoccupied with everyone else, but today she wanted to let me know, "I don't know what I'll do this summer when I can't see you."

Hmmmm......

I only work directly with 25 students during a year.  Of course, I'm pretty talkative and I know many of our 400 students by name.  The students who needed to give and receive hugs weren't any students I work with on a daily basis.

I think it's sinking in for our students that they are leaving our warm, caring environment.  They won't have teachers to talk with.  Some won't see their friends very often (or at all).  A few know they will be at home with their siblings, inside until a parent returns from work.

Sigh.

I'm all about enjoying a lengthy summer vacation (I need to recharge!), but for many of the students at our school, that means a disconnection from people who care about them; a change in their routine; a really quiet stretch of boring days.

My friends tease me about my "seasonal job."  I tell them that it's time we rethink the calendar and find a way to keep kids learning and engaged year-round.  Not everyone has the means or the time to head to the zoo, lay on a beach or dine out during the summer.

I'll miss the students, too.

May 29, 2012

FOCUS

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FOCUS
It's the word
my youngest daughter
used to call
the f word.

FOCUS
is hard for
someone like me trying to keep
developing readers with lots of energy
reading and
writing and
thinking
as the classrooms around them
become
placed in boxes

FOCUS
is hard for students
when the weather turns
VERY warm
and the pool opened
during the three day weekend

FOCUS
for me
is hard
when I still want to teach
and the paperwork says
"Pay attention to ME"

while

on the counter
the papers
and books
and games
and book bags
and tape players
demand
to be put away


FOCUS
can I keep my brain on target
while the school year
w i n d s
d   o   w   n ?

May 15, 2012

Second Violin

Slice of Life Tuesdays hosted by Two Writing Teachers
If you asked my family and friends to describe my personality, they would tell you that I L-O-V-E to talk.  My grandmother even bought me a shirt when I was a teen that labeled me "The Babbler."  I love to generate ideas, get people excited, and I tend to think "outside the box."

At school, do I see myself as a leader?  Nope.  I see myself as a solid second violin.

Classical music composers tend to write thousands of showy, shiny, high-pitched notes for the first violins.  They carry most of the melodies.  In contrast, the second violins have hundreds of solid, smooth, middle-range notes that support the first violins.  The first violins (in my opinion) need the anchor of the second violins to help their melodies sound better.

In teaching (and in the real world), I work best as a second violin.  I don't worry about being the first to try a new strategy.  I'm not great at leading everyone to the next best thing.  I'm much better at supporting everyone around me, helping them to be their best.  I ask questions that help others make decisions.  I nod, smile and think of more questions to guide them to success.

Sometimes I wish I was the rock-star teacher, but I think those shoes are too big for me right now.  I'm happy standing in the wings cheering on my friends, wiping their tears when they get overwhelmed, and always being here to listen.

Harmony can be more powerful than melody.

May 8, 2012

Making connections


Slice of Life Tuesdays hosted at Two Writing Teachers

This year I had many families stop by my room during two days of portfolio sharing.  This shouldn't be a surprise, but in years past, I had maybe 3 or 4 of my students convince their parents to stop by my room once they had shared everything in their homeroom.

This year, I'm all about making connections.  Not the text-to-self and text-to-text connections.
Connections with students.  I want my little reading room to be a place of respite, a place to learn, a place to speak and be heard.

At one point during the portfolio sharing evening, I had a second grader and her parents come in and get comfortable at the table.  My student was taking them through her reading response journal, speaking like a proud tour guide, as her father tried to find answers to the many questions he has about her reading progress.

Meanwhile, one fourth grader lingered outside my room with his mom.  I stepped out and chatted with them, explaining in my halting Spanish (something to work on!) to his mom how polite and hardworking her son is with his peers.

I'm sorry to say that I missed seeing one family.  Another fourth grader walked past the room twice, trying to get my attention as I spoke with another family.  I called their house later that evening to apologize for missing them.

It's an important part of my job to build the decoding skills, comprehension and vocabulary of my students.  Most importantly, I'm here to help build the self-esteem and confidence of my students by giving them an opportunity to grow as learners.

May 1, 2012

Hair Therapy

I keep my hair long, so I splurge every now and then for a partial highlight and cut. When I get to the salon, I always tease my stylist, Laurie, "Time for hair therapy!" She laughs, I grab a chair and we dish. We share stories, both positive and challenging, especially lamenting the trials and tribulations of our 8th grade daughters. We laugh at my inability to choose how much length to take off my mop, and how she is proud that I haven't asked her to cut my bangs back in after growing them out a few years ago. (A big hurdle for me!)


My two hours at the salon is "me" time.  I chat with Laurie as she covers my hair with just the right formula of high and low lights.  While the color processes, I sit back and relax with the latest issue of Glamour or People.  

Then comes the shampoo.  This salon has reclining shampoo chairs!  Ahhhhh - they give a fantastic scalp massage, too!

When it's time to head over for a haircut, the conversation continues.  We even chat while the hairdryer is going!

As I head home, I'm relaxed and pleasantly distracted from anything that was bothering me before my appointment.  Hair therapy - you can't beat it!

April 10, 2012

Lots of GOOD news!

Slice of Life stories are hosted by
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Last week, we were lamenting the purposeful damage of my husband's new car.  <sigh>

This week, we have all found reasons to CELEBRATE!  

My husband received an email back from a community choir he contacted after he read about them in the newspaper.  He asked about open auditions, and learned they were taking new members that very day!  He now has a new choir with whom to stretch his vocal chords and singing talent each week.  HOORAY!

My oldest daughter is having a successful run on the school lacrosse team.  The team is only in their second year, and she was so excited to make the varsity team, even though she didn't play last year.  She hasn't scored a goal in a game yet, but she's had a few in practice.  It's SO exciting to hear her name over the loudspeaker at the stadium when she gains possession of the ball.  GO, COUGARS!!!

This week I inspired many intermediate, barely-motivated-readers to pick up a book, READ it, then try an Accelerated Reader (AR) test.  We're playing BINGO in each small group:  each time someone reads a book, talks with someone about it, then passes the AR test, they can put their name in a square.  They work together to strategically place their names so they form a BINGO.  The prizes included candy, erasers and mechanical pencils, so the kids were psyched to grab a bunch of books for the weekend.  WIN!

Finally, my youngest daughter had the drive and motivation to participate in poms tryouts for next year's high school team.  She stayed at the high school for 3 hours each night, managed to get her homework done (without nagging from me), and cheered on her friends who also tried out.  She wasn't a total crab when she still had to get up early for school.  Her great attitude, hard work, and smiles paid off.... she made the team.  WOOO HOOO!

I'm proud of all our accomplishments and happy for even the little moments (BINGO!)  It's an exciting time for my family.

April 3, 2012

Already damaged

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My husband bought a new car in March.  It's a Chrysler 300 SRT.  It's a total racing sedan, and it's his third one.  He really loves his car.  It's stylish, speedy and full of features.  He's waited since September for this one.

It's already damaged.

He bought his first SRT during a snowstorm.  It was tricky getting home (not much traction) and he commented that this was not a car to drive in the snow.  During spring break, he left it at the dealership to have the brakes checked.  Two of the mechanics took it for a test drive and flipped the car.  No one was hurt, but the car was totaled.  He was out of town on business when a police officer came to our house to have me sign the police report.  My heart has never beat faster.

The new car, as it sat in our driveway, was damaged.


His second SRT stayed with us through its lease, but I began to think the car was jinxed.   Two times my husband was rear-ended (once because of a duck, the other by a new driver hitting the car behind him).  He knew the first name of the receptionist at the body shop by the end of the car's lease.

The new car was scratched, purposefully.


This year he waited six months for the newest SRT to be built.  We've had it for less than a month.  Last night he discovered a scratch on the back of the trunk and a wad of gum at the end of the scratch.  He thinks it was done in our driveway, in broad daylight.  He felt so disgusted last night.

Why does someone have to ruin something nice?


It's a scratch that can be fixed, but we can't figure out why someone would do something like that.  It does hang over the sidewalk when it's parked.  Are there really bored teens?  The questions will never be answered.

March 31, 2012

Daughter - SOLC #31

HOORAY! 
It's my 31st slice!  I (we) made it!  I (we) wrote for 31 days!
This slice is dedicated to my daughters (and my husband) who have been my cheerleaders during this challenge.  I love you!!!

2002
daughter
 August                                 July 
     oldest                                   youngest
polite
honest
     athlete                                    dancer
sports watcher                          app player
funny
compassionate
           coach                             animal whisperer
early bird                               night owl
musical
friendly
  left-brained                        right-brained 
mathematician                           writer
my favorite
daughter

2012
It's been a great Slice of Life Challenge!
Check out Two Writing Teachers to slice all year long!




March 30, 2012

The bird feeder - SOLC #30

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We hung a bird feeder on the side of our shed years ago.  When I keep the feeder full of seed and suet cakes, we get lots of bird traffic.  It helps that we have lots of bushes at our fence line, and we live across the street from a nature sanctuary.

Mornings are my favorite time of day when we don't have to rush to work and school.  I sit at the dining room table and try to identify all the birds who stop by.  Every year we see a pair of cardinals, lots of sparrows and we've even a woodpecker or two.  In late winter, a group of birds who look like they are wearing tuxedos stop by.  My mom thinks they might be from Alaska.

My most exciting bird sighting happened last summer.  I spotted an indigo bunting.  Wow - these birds have
the most beautiful blue feathers.  I tried to snap a photo through the screen with my phone, but I was unsuccessful.  I was so excited to see this bird that I was jumping around the living room, calling out to my family.  They really thought I was nuts!  Take a look at a picture I found - wouldn't you be excited, too?

From avibirds.com - photo by Lang Elliot
Maybe I'm a bird brain, but I do enjoy watching all the birds at the feeder.  They are happy creatures, hopping around, vying for a spot at the feeder, waiting their turn on the shed.  Today we were able to capture these photos.  They were taken through the windows, but you get the idea.  Enjoy!

Nuttall's Woodpecker (I think)
Cardinal on the feeder, sparrows on the roof

March 29, 2012

New experiences - SOLC #29

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We arrived back in our hometown this afternoon and unloaded our bags. The girls collected 3 new college t-shirts and lots of new knowledge after our 3-day road trip to Iowa.

My oldest daughter experienced over six hours of driving - on highways, around small towns and through a hilly college campus.

My youngest daughter learned some new organizational tips from a friend who also struggles with ADHD.

I learned how to be less of a white-knuckled passenger with my student driver at the wheel.

The girls experienced their first hotel stay in a No-Moms-Allowed room.  My girls and my friend's daughter were excited and nervous about being down the hall from the moms, but they did great.

We all learned that college campuses are very unique, and there are many pros and cons to all of them.  It will be a big decision for both of them.

I wish my husband was able to go on this trip with us, but during the trip I was reminded that I married the right guy nearly 22 years ago.  He managed our construction, dealt with his work responsibilities, and even took great care of the parakeet that he wished we didn't have.


March 28, 2012

Car Conversations – SOLC #28



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My teenage daughters and I drove five and a half hours across Illinois and Iowa yesterday.  We’re on a mini road trip during spring break, looking at colleges (for the oldest) and shopping (for the youngest).  During the long hours on the road, we talked about a lot of different things. 

Making and keeping friends, especially when there are boys involved 
Does Justin Bieber listen to his early music and cringe at how young he sounds? 
Different religions and churches
Funny stories about their paternal grandmother who grew up in Iowa
Are your GPA and test scores more important than being a well-rounded student? 
Excitement about their dad’s designs for our basement
Of course, when the conversation lapsed, my youngest took over the iPod and played the role of DJ from the backseat.  We listened to everything from hip hop to pop to classic rock.  The miles go faster when you’re singing along to The Beatles, for sure!

When we’re in the car, we can talk about nearly anything without anyone feeling too uncomfortable.  There’s no eye contact, and the conversation can quickly change. 

Mrs. V was right when she commented on my blog yesterday, “Enjoy the trip with your girls. It sounds like it will be a great bonding experience.

March 27, 2012

Road trip - SOLC #27


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Today we're off to Iowa, land of hogs and corn, two big universities and many small universities.  My oldest daughter is a sophomore in high school and her younger sister is in 8th grade.  Is it too early to look at colleges?  Not when you're on spring break, you're doing home remodeling ($) and your husband has to work. 

A three-day road trip fits the bill!

Last year we went to Ann Arbor to visit the University of Michigan.  I'd always wanted to go there as a kid, but I went to school closer to home.  (GO NIU HUSKIES!)  We wandered the campus and the downtown area.  It was fun to say we'd been there, so our goal for the next year is to unofficially visit a bunch of
colleges in the Midwest, taking our time, and getting a feel for each campus.

If you ask my oldest daughter what she's looking for in a college, she would say that she'd like a big school with great football & basketball teams, lots of different majors, a cool marching band and a girls' lacrosse team.  Don't ask her what she wants to major in.  It makes her stressed - she's my child who likes to plan out everything, and she doesn't know what she's exactly interested in yet.  I'm fine with that - we have time!

If you ask my younger daughter what she's looking for in a college, she would say that she'd like to go to a small school where she can dance, design clothes, go shopping when she's bored (the reality of being broke in college hasn't sunk in), and meet lots of people.  Can you tell she's 13?  It's all about the social life!

So, today we're heading toward Iowa State University (my sister- and brother-in-law are alums) and Drake University.  Tomorrow we visit the University of Iowa, then head to my friend's in the Quad Cities for a visit.    We hope it's a fun trip!

March 26, 2012

Pampered - SOLC #26

My daughters and I tried a new nail shop today.  I usually go for one or two pedicures in a year, and they have gone once before.  The nail shop is new and shiny, with friendly people who want to grow their business.  The gentleman who gave two of us pedicures made sure we were having an excellent experience.
"Do you like your pedicure?  Is this towel too hot?  Would you like a drink?  Have you had a pedicure with the leg scrub before?  Can I show you how to adjust the massage chair?"
We talked about word of mouth advertising. He firmly believes in it.  He and his business partner (we think she's his sister or wife - she kept chiding him about his technique in their native language) were talking about how they have only been open for four weeks, but they want to be a nail shop that stands out from the rest.

They are offering a first month discount (I love a deal!) and they offer student rates.  Their pedicure is a spa pedicure, and they have bowl liners.  The owner made sure he asked our names and shared all their unique offerings with us.

Yes, there was still some quiet time to enjoy the massage chair and relax.  We walked away with excellent pedicures and freshly shaped eyebrows.  The owner offered us a pile of advertisements and cards and asked politely if we wouldn't mind telling our friends about his shop.

It was nice to be pampered in such a lovely shop with genuinely kind people.

March 25, 2012

Sunday Morning Symphony - SOLC #25


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Sunday Morning Symphony

Cardinals singing, “whoop whoop pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty

Cars whooshing, rushing

Music flowing out of neighbor’s windows

Church bells pealing – inviting, celebrating

Airplanes accelerating

Children giggling, calling out, “Watch me!”

Dogs barking, announcing joggers pounding the pavement

Dishes and silverware chiming

Parakeet chattering, answering the outside birds

Hammer banging

Fingers tapping the keys

Sunday Morning Symphony

March 24, 2012

What to do first? - SOLC #24

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It's the first Saturday of spring break, and I have a few hours of downtime this afternoon.

We survived a Friday night sleepover (zzzz?) and a morning showing of "The Hunger Games."  Now I have to decide what to do.  My options are endless!

Let's see..

  • Continue knitting mittens for my friend 
  • Clean out my office 
  • Read 2 overdue library books 
  • Fill the birdfeeder and watch the woodpeckers and cardinals feast 
  • Paint my toes 
  • Pack for our mini road trip to Iowa 
  • Surf the 'net 
  • Practice my violin 
I think I've decided to.... take a nap!  It's not on the list, but I think I need one.  It's cloudy and cool, and I'm tired.

Have a great Saturday!

March 23, 2012

Friday. Finally. -SOLC #23


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Friday. Finally. 

We released our students an hour early. I waved to all the teachers and students leaving, and then I stayed for an hour and a half past dismissal time. I hid in my room and cleared all the papers from my desk (yes, I did put some back in a neat pile). 

I put all my intervention materials away. The books that were haphazardly tossed on the shelves were lined back up, spines facing out. 

I left for spring break with just one school bag full of random papers and progress monitoring packets. I came home to a clean house, ate dinner, and planted myself in my comfy chair. 

Friday. Finally.

March 22, 2012

Lucky to be "famous" - SOLC #22


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One of my students came to our game night on his own.  The principal and his mom were fine with his solo attendance, and I offered to walk him home.  As I left the building, I told the other adults I didn't have my badge.   I promised to be back in just a few minutes.

The one block walk turned into a 10 minute walk (I'm not built for speed!).  When I returned to school, I saw one car in the parking lot - our night custodian's truck.  Hmmmm.  I tried the front door, and it was open.  I stepped into the vestibule and tried the interior doors (all four of them).

I was locked out.  Oh boy.

I peeked in all the windows with lights inside.  No sign of our custodian.  I knocked on all the doors.  No answer.  I could see his vacuum in one hallway, and his cart in another.  He likes to listen to music (but not too loud) through his earbuds as he works.  I banged on the windows.  Loudly.

I was still locked out.

As I rounded the school, I heard a voice from the playground, "Hey, Mrs. R!  Whatcha doin?"
I called back to the first grader, "Well - I got locked out of the school!"
"Oh, what will you do now?" she asked.
"I'm trying to figure that out!" I replied with a smile.

As I stood on the playground, watching the sun fall lower in the sky, I saw a 5th grader and asked if he had a phone.  His little sister came running up to me.  I think she's in kindergarten.  I couldn't remember her name, but she knew me.

"Mrs. R!" she squealed.  "I saw you on the TV today at school.  Come to our house.  My dad has a phone!"
My luck had changed!  I'm glad I'm recognizable, even on a dark playground!

Their dad was walking from their house on the edge of the playground towards the kids.  They caught up with him first.  They started explaining my situation.  He welcomed me to their home to make a call.  I called my husband and asked him to pick me up.  My husband chuckled and agreed to come fetch me.

Their dad was very kind and offered to wait with me outside of the school.  I declined and continued to profusely thank him for his kindness.  I returned to school and checked the door.  Our night custodian was coming to lock the outside doors.  He was more than surprised to see me at the door!

I canceled my husband's ride, and our custodian wrote down the school cell phone number.  We laughed at my starring role in the school surveillance video.  I headed home to put my feet up!

March 21, 2012

Game Night (small scale) - SOLC #21


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My co-Title I teacher and I hosted a small game night for students in 3rd-5th grade who get extra support in reading.  Our first idea of game night was to send home games with every family who attended.  We'd show them how to play and then they would take the games home.  Our district coordinator thought that it would be wiser to purchase a bunch of games, then have a lending library.  That way our budget would work, and we could share the experiences with more families.

We had 10 families attend tonight's event. We taught the group how to play Basta! (think Scattergories) and gave them a make-and-take bag with letters, categories, a 3-minute timer, golf pencils, and lots of paper.  While different home languages were spoken by these families, we were able to communicate how to play and keep score.

The other games we purchased were Boggle, Apples to Apples Junior, and Bananagrams (in English and Spanish).  We loaned out nearly all the games tonight as the families were leaving.  The biggest hit?  Apples to Apples Junior.  They love that someone gets to be the judge and there's really no wrong answers.  Every answer is considered, and they are learning some great vocabulary.

Even though it was on the small scale, I think we made a big impact.  The families had personal attention from our principal and assistant principal, two teacher assistants, and two reading teachers.  We sat and played with the families and shared laughter and excitement.  It was time well spent.