Musings from a middle school reading specialist. I encourage my students to read, talk, write, and have fun!
I parent two amazing young-adult daughters with my husband of 30+ years.

March 3, 2021

Dinner solved! #SOLC21


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I would not change the past year of having everyone in my family home.  Last March our oldest daughter returned  home and found remote work.  The youngest daughter adjusted to remote college courses and a new full-time job.  My husband has settled in to working from his basement office instead of flying around the country.

What would I change?  

Figuring out dinner.  Seven days a week.

When it was just youngest and me at home, some dinners could be egg sandwiches or pancakes.  I'd cook some random chicken dish and we'd have that for two nights.  When my husband was home on weekends, we'd eat out (before the pandemic).

I experimented with Pinterest recipes.  I tried meal prep.  I pulled out my copy of America's Test Kitchen Cooking School and attempted to learn how to cook.

We survived.  We ate.  It was fine, but this week I landed on a new miracle for dinner.

A local catering company offered a weekly meal kit.  The food is prepared (ready to heat or eat) and packaged so nicely.  I jumped on the opportunity to get one of these tasty meals every week.

Tonight was a Parisian picnic.  Next week is Nashville buttermilk chicken.

As long as I have a meal to look forward to each week, I can deal with the other days.  

I accept I may never be the diva of dinner preparation!

March 2, 2021

Choosing topics from memory lane #SOLC21


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I was inspired by some other slicers to look back to my first year of participating in this challenge.  I reread my post, Generating Ideas, from 2012.  My plans for one of my reading groups that day was two-fold.  I would pique their interest in writing and get some authentic ideas for what I would write about all month.

This group was one that brought me joy and frustration each week.  Out of the five students, J & A were sharp students with great attitudes, but oh my were they in competition with each other!  They constantly announced when they had exceeded the other in fluency, answering questions, who was faster at recess, and on and on and on...

J especially enjoyed brainstorming ideas for me to write about.  He did not feel the need to get a notebook or attempt writing.  Nope, not for him. Conversely, A and two other students got excited to receive little notebooks of their own to write in during the month.  They were determined to fill each little box on their calendars with writing ideas.

I often wonder how that group of students did once they got to high school (and maybe even beyond.  How old are they now?  😆).  I tried my best to meet their needs and not get frustrated by their antics.  Now that I'm in my 20th year (!) of teaching and it's mostly online, I've realized that working with actively engaged students is always more interesting than quieter groups.

During this month, I'll be exploring that calendar of ideas from 2012.  Some don't really fit anymore (there's no recess <sigh> in middle school) but there's a lot more to write about and see where the slice goes.

March 1, 2021

Routines, please #SOLC21

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It's no surprise to me that I'm back for this challenge this year.  2020 was a wild ride, so I'm grateful to be back in this supportive space, finding my writing voice again.

I've realized something very unusual this year:  I'm thriving when something is routine.  

(I know - looking at the name of my blog you would think otherwise - but I surprised myself!). 

My wake-up and go-to-sleep times, my morning routine, my route to work, and my classroom mini lessons.  When I follow the routines, I'm more calm and prepared and more likely to have success.

(If you had told younger me that I'd be thriving from routines in my 50s, I would have laughed!)

I guess my mom is right - I love having a sense of control over things.  

(I would love to have control over my family's lack of dishwasher loading...but that's for another day).  

I also think after the roller coaster of 2020, I appreciate the rhythm of routine.  When things go as expected, then I can deal with the unexpected.

So I'm excited to be off to a good start of slicing each day.  I prefer writing in the evening, after dinner, once I've changed into comfy clothes and I can put the school day behind me.

May you find a writing groove that becomes routine as we write every day this month!

August 6, 2020

I will do my best

Everyone wants to know how I will teach this school year.

"Will you be online?"  
"Are the students coming to school?" 
"What's the hybrid thing?"

I overhear conversations about school in the store, at the salon, and all over social media.

Parents are frustrated, community members are opinionated, and everyone is nervous.

This is my response:

I will do my best, just like every other school year.

I will strive to learn each student's strengths and interests.

I will read books and talk about them so students can be inspired to read.

I will use all my markers to make drawings and sketches to share ideas and promote thinking.

I will be patient with my quieter students, my outspoken students, and all the students in between.

I will encourage my students to find their voice and be confident enough to use it.

I will take care of myself (eating well, sleeping more, finding peaceful moments) so I have the energy to keep doing my best.

All students deserve a positive school experience, no matter the model of instruction.

June 11, 2019

Books #SOL

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I'm reading a whole bunch of books this summer.  It's what I do for fun.

I read picture books and graphic novels to find the "next great book" that I can recommend to my intervention students and classroom teachers.

I read middle grade novels because there's nothing more satisfying than sitting down with an engaging book and being able to finish it across a couple of days.

I really love to read young adult fiction because I will forever remember the crazy fun of my high school brain:  school fun, crushes, drama, and dreams of growing up.

I skim and scan children's nonfiction because I'm curious about our world.  I'm more likely to read about a science topic compared to history.  

Rarely I'll read adult nonfiction or fiction.  I'd rather read kid- or teen-centric text.  There's enough grown-up worries and drama in the world that I hear about via social media and the newspaper.  I use reading as an escape.

I use Goodreads to track my reading, when I finished a book, and what books I want to read.  I struggle to leave reviews because I don't want to give too many details away.  I also end up sounding like the book blurb.  I hope to get better at writing reviews.

What do you like to read?

June 4, 2019

Summer Plans #SOL

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This summer I'm trying something new.

I told people that I was open and available for volunteer opportunities.

They took me seriously.

I'm a new member of the Monarch Butterfly program at the local nature center.

Sounds impressive? You betcha!  One two-hour training felt like a graduate-level course.

Next week I'll be helping clients with special needs at a day-long fun fair.

I get to play carnival games with a buddy, then enjoy a karaoke party.  I'm super pumped!

This nearly-empty-nester-teacher who thought she would have LOADS of time to fill this summer...

...was wrong!

March 31, 2019

Little Library Rebuild #SOLC19

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Our little library at school was delivered two years ago.  "When they asked me if we wanted one," my principal explained, "I said yes!"

The little library was simply built with a plexiglass door.  It seemed pretty solid and was painted a greenish-gray.  We decided to place it near the edge of the blacktop, near the buddy bench.

Over the past two years, I've tried to encourage its use, placing books inside after school as the car-riders waited in line.  I set up tables and bookshelves filled with books near it during our end-of-year celebration. 

"Visit the little library ANY time!" I shouted.  "Keep any book you find inside!"

Sometimes the library gets cleaned out of books and then the students start filling the inside with rocks.  Other days I find grown-up books that are clearly past their life, pages ripped out and covers torn.

This winter, the maintenance crew asked if we could relocate the little library to a new spot, away from where they plow all the snow into a gigantic pile at the edge of the blacktop.  I took the opportunity to have them load the little library into my SUV so I could take it home for some TLC.

Yesterday I tried using a scraper and sander from my husband's tool collection to scrape off some delaminated pieces of plywood.  Unfortunately my hands and shoulders are just not strong enough.

Today my husband took matters into his hands.  He spent the day giving the little library a fresh start.  He cut new wood for the roof and side, he shingled the roof with redwood pieces, and he trimmed the edge of the roof.  The library looks amazing.  I plan to paint it cobalt blue with gold trim to match our school colors.

I truly appreciate all the work my husband put into this little library.  He has so much woodworking skill and knowledge.  What a gift to the students of my school!