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.

January 29, 2013

Stretch and Renew

Read Slice of Life stories at
Two Writing Teachers
In December I sat at my husband's choir concert, thumbing through the program during The Messiah.  In the program I found an ad for the YMCA Women's Wellness Winter Camp.

 "Camp?  I loved going to camp in 6th grade and college.  I wonder if anyone would go with me?" I wondered to myself.

I polled a few friends, and YES!  My BFF of 28 years, Beth, agreed that we should go.

I haven't had this much fun in a long time!

The marsh
We arrived after dinner and introductions Friday night, but that didn't matter.  We pulled up a chair at the indoor campfire and jumped right into a few crazy songs with the staff.

After talking (mostly me, sorry, Beth!) for most of the evening, we went to bed in our chilly bunks.  We woke at 6:30 a.m. for a lovely yoga class led by one of the campers (she's come every year since '79!).

Saturday included a hike to breakfast and lunch, a walk across the frozen lake, a photography seminar, 30 minutes of downtime (I wrote 5 pages in my journal!), a mystery dinner and wine tasting.  The day ended with Tai Chi at 9:00 p.m.
Walking on the frozen lake!

We met many athletic and young-minded ladies between the ages of 20 and 81.  They were an inspiration to both of us!  One group plays pickle ball twice per week, and all of them could out-hike me!
Chris & Beth - friends since '73

I learned that we need to stretch ourselves - get out of our daily routine - and renew our body, both emotionally and physically.  Beth and I didn't figure out the answers to our current life stresses, but we connected and renewed our friendship, reminding each other why we're friends.
Reminding ourselves to have fun and not be so serious.

January 22, 2013

New Intervention

Visit Two Writing Teachers
for more Slices.

Last week was crazy at our house.  My husband finished up a long-term contract, my daughters took finals, and I continued to assess students and carry around a few pounds ton of stress.

This week I'm starting a new, research-based, large group, tier 3 intervention.


I'm not there yet.

I keep telling my principal, "It's not that I don't think this intervention is worthwhile.  I'm just concerned that I'll deliver it the right way."

I was feeling good this year.  I've finally become more comfortable with the tiny group intervention program that I use with 1st-4th grade.  I was really understanding all the goals behind it.  Now there's something new for our 4th and 5th graders.

On Wednesday afternoon, I will switch rooms with a colleague, balance a heavy book of teacher-talk and student prompts, juggle a document camera and presentation software, and guide nine students into unknown territory.

The intervention trainer promised that we will not be fans of the program for a solid six weeks.  
We will be tired.  We will want to give up.


Time to pull on my sneakers and try my best.

It's what we ask of our students every day.

January 15, 2013

Finals. Ugh.

Read more Slice of Life stories at
Two Writing Teachers
It's finals week at the high school where my daughters attend.

It's the first time for my freshman daughter.

It's the fifth time for my junior daughter.

It's a time of debating, checking, insisting, phone-hiding, explaining, asking, coaching, refusing and studying.

It's time for me to find some chocolate, a book and trust that they will do their best.

It's finals week.  We're all being tested.

January 8, 2013

Winter Break Reading Blitz

Read more Slice of Life stories at
Two Writing Teachers

I realized in December that I was falling short of my Goodreads goal of 212 books read.  I didn't stress...I just made a plan to read a lot of books over winter break.  I started with a big stack from the library on the 26th, and I downloaded the max number of books to my iPad.  I posted an event to some of my FB friends asking them to guess how many books I would read over break.  The person with the winning guess would win the book of their chosing.

I read 23 books over winter break, and that included picture books, graphic novels and young adult novels.  I read books before I gave them as gifts, I read some great books, and I abandoned two books.  Here are few of my favorites:

First Date  by Krista McGee
This realistic young adult novel finds Addy on a reality show, looking to win a prom date with the President's son, Jonathan.  Addy would prefer to be at home, attending her close-knit Christian school.  Addy feels torn between her attraction to Jonathan and her complete disgust for the show's premise and producer.  Quick read if you're a fan of The Bachelor.

The Science of Snow:  The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassini and Jon Nelson
This awesome non fiction picture book has the COOLEST photographs of actual snow crystals.  I'm a huge fan of snow, and this is a book I plan to share with others interested in learning more about the fluffy white magical stuff!

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
This young adult novel features a hard-of-hearing protagonist, Piper.  She's on track to attend Gaulladet University until her parents spend her college account on a cochlear implant for her profoundly deaf baby sister.  Piper accepts a challenge of managing a high school rock band (which she can barely hear!) to earn some cash and make a name for the band, Dumb.  Lots of rock references to Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix as this book takes place in Washington state.

Dinosaur vs. Santa by Bob Shea
I bought this raucous picture book for my youngest nephew.  I loved reading it with enthusiasm in e bookstore and clearly embarrassed my oldest daughter.  Dinosaur versus presents.....ROAR! Dinosaur opens the presents with gusto.  This one is a riot!

January 1, 2013

OLW: Thrive

Read more Slice of Life Stories at
Two Writing Teachers

We just returned from a 4-day trip to northern Michigan.  I'm trying to feel like we didn't drag my two teenagers away from their friends (the hotel did have WiFi!), but no one complained when we decided to head home today.  <sigh>

Since there was a great base of snow (unlike here in Illinois where the snow is seriously lacking!), the girls tried snowboarding for the first time.  It was tricky for both, but they even attempted a run down the main hill.  Another day I joined the girls for an hour of tubing.  I loved being towed up the hill (scenic and relaxing) then whoooshing down the hill at breakneck speeds.  The trip gave us the taste of winter that we craved.

At our New Year's Eve dinner, I brought up One Little Word.  The Two Writing Teachers encourage people to choose one word instead of lengthy resolutions (read more here: OLW blog archive).  For the past two years, I've chosen finish and listen.  My kids and husband are familiar with the idea, but they were surprised that I asked them to think about what their little word would be.

My 14yo daughter immediately called out her word, "Single!" and started laughing.  She's a cute freshman girl who thinks everyone should have a boy following you around, carrying your books.  She's had quite the following since school started, and she recently decided that boys are better as friends (yes!).

Both girls exclaimed ideas for my husband.  He's spent nearly 200 days on the road this year, and stress has given him a few health issues and a short temper.  Ideas for dad included healthy, unstressed, fresh, hunt.  (can you tell they want him to find a new job?) He made a knowing face and said he needed time to think.

My 16yo daughter chimed in with a word for herself:  survive.  "Survive what?" I asked.
"Junior year, trigonometry, the ACT, college talk," she replied.  We thought about it for a second.
"Survive means you're barely making it.  What about thrive instead?" I suggested.

Thrive (from
1  : to grow vigorously : flourish
: to gain in wealth or possessions : prosper
: to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances

I like it! I'm thinking that thrive could be our family's OLW.  We don't need to worry about definition #2 (we have enough stuff) but I really like definition #3.

I'm hoping that each of us thrives in our work, academics and social lives.  I reminded both of my daughters that I expect them to thrive during finals week and that they are to absolutely ask if they need any kind of help in order to be successful.  My husband likes to remind them, "High school is for working really hard in your classes and having fun while you're doing it."

Here's hoping you thrive at whatever goal you choose to reach in 2013.
Happy New Year!