Saturday, November 22, 2014

Celebrating the Best Monday Ever...


And the rest of the week wasn't so bad, either....

Discover. Play. Build.
Celebrate with us!
I was out of the classroom both Thursday and Friday last week. And you know how it goes when you are gone for a couple of days. Kids can think the rules  expectations are gone too. So I was a little apprehensive heading to school Monday morning.

Imagine my glee when I read the note from my sub telling me how he liked my room and how kids handle the freedom. 

What a great way to start a Monday.  It proved that kids can be independent learners. That they can handle the freedom my room allows, even when I'm not there. Did all of them get lots of work done? Nope. But most of them did. Some of them watched videos on their computers and spent a lot of time on Facebook. They talked and messed around JUST LIKE THEY DO WHEN I AM THERE. But they know when the work is due and will have to get it done on their own time. 

Then, second hour Monday, at the beginning of Creative Writing, a senior girl asked me to find her a book to read. Her words, "Do you have a book I could read? I feel stupider because I haven't been reading." 

Do I have a book????? 


Really? Do I have a book you can read?  

So, I started grabbing books off the shelves. I'm sure she was thinking to herself I only want one, but I handed her a pile to choose from. 

And then a funny, amazing, wonderful, thing happened. The other girls at her table started looking at the books. And the boys in the back of the room said, "Yea. Will you find me one too?" And other kids in the room shared, "Ooo. That's a good one. I read it last year." And before I knew it, books were flying off the shelves. 

And it didn't end. 

At the beginning of the next class, a senior who I don't even have in class this semester came to see me. Her request? To find her a book. 

I am getting daily updates from her on her reading. 

She doesn't have to do a book project or a reading log or even tell me about it. 
She's just reading.
And isn't that the point?

And the rest of the week also was worth celebrating
  • Monday and Thursday nights were Parent-Teacher conferences
  • Genius Time with my #Crazy8s
  • MacBeth performances in College Prep Lit
  • Funny speeches from kids who don't think they are funny
  • A parent finding me Thursday night to ask if I would contact their child about being in speech
  • Chloe cuddles
  • A husband who cooks and plans dinners
  • A restful weekend at home

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sometimes...

Sometimes, in the middle of life
there isn't time to 
WRITE
about the celebration
because you are 
too busy 
LIVING
it.

You are sharing a 
FIRST BIG GAME
 with grandkids


Sometimes
You put your money
where your mouth is 
and take students
on a trip you hope will
GIVE THEM VOICE


And 
Sometimes
in the midst of grading chaos
and messy houses
and the rest of the
"I should be doings"
You take a weekend 
to RELAX
to REFUEL
to REINVIGORATE
yourself

Because, even though 
there are lots and lots of 
"I should be doings"
Life is meant to be 
ENJOYED
and CELEBRATED







Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Nov 5: My Strength. My Kids.


I am a yeller. I get after kids daily. I tell them, "I treat each and every one of you like you are my own kids. It's when I stop yelling you have to worry."  

What do I "yell" about? Homework. Being mean to classmates. Not caring. Homework. Watching movies in class. Texting. No effort. Homework.  

And I yell at kids I really like. Like they were my own kids. 

Because they are. My. Kids.

And they know it. Because I also tell them that. "You. Are. My. Kid.

They call me mom. They tell me they are sorry when they screw up. They don't like it when I'm mad at them.

What they don't know is the nights I go home and cry because I think I've failed them. Or the days I say to my principal, "I've never had a kid I couldn't reach. I don't know what to do with this one." They don't know how I worry on Prom Night. They don't know that even after they leave me and go to college or go to work, they are still MY KID.

They don't think I mean You. Are. MY. KID.

They don't know that I never give up. I will always try to find a way to connect, to help, to love. 

My strength? MY KIDS.

“When you're screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they've given up on you.” 
― Randy Pausch

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nov 4: The Best Gift

At first, I knew exactly what I was going to write about.

Adam's podium

or maybe, the random Christmas ornaments

or maybe the pieces of chocolate that kids bring me.

It could be notes from parents.

But no.

It's this


To know that they get it. To see them share themselves and our room so openly. To remember where they came from and see where they are now. That is the best gift.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Nov 3 You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks


I am an old teacher.


57 on my last birthday.

And I'm pretty proud that I have kept up with all the changes I have seen in my teaching career. Not just kept up but kept ahead of them. I have never uttered the words, "We've done this before." Or "The last time we did this..." Well, OK, maybe I've said it once or twice. We've gone through a lot of curriculum management systems.

My students are amazed that
  • I stay pretty current on the latest fads/games/music/etc.
  • I taught junior high for 15 years before coming to the high school
  • I'm older than some of their parents
  • I've had some of their parents, aunts and uncles in class
  • I have a smart phone
  • I have a snapchat and Instagram account
  • I'm better at Twitter than they are
  • I'm "techy" and, again, better at it than many of them
I think what amazes them is that because I am so old, I shouldn't know the things I do. I should be content to teach the same thing every year until I die behind my desk.

That has never been my style.

I get bored too easily.

About every five years I feel the itch, the discontent begins. By the seventh year, I have to change what I am doing.

I started out as a para in our high school Special Ed department. Then I taught basic Math (gasp! I still can't believe I taught Math!) and basic English in the junior high (kind of a program for those who didn't qualify for special ed, but who were not making it in the regular classroom). Then I moved to teaching 7th grade English, switched to 7th grade Reading (even team taught the two classes for awhile). Eventually, I taught 7th and 8th grade Advanced English, Speech at the high school and also a class at the alternative school.

This semester I have Speech, Drama, Creative Writing, College Prep Lit and another class of 8th grade Advanced English.

I love the change. I love creating new plans, new units. I never want to teach the same thing twice. Sometimes I wonder why I keep old binders with old lesson plans in them. But just as I think I can throw them away (or trash them off my computer) a new idea comes to me. I can tweak this lesson. I can add this resource. I can flip this. I can make this an inquiry project.

I'm starting to think about retirement, but that doesn't mean I'll be resting on retired lesson plans. I'll keep thinking, keep changing, keep moving forward until the day they give me my retirement bell.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Celebrating Teaching

Discover. Play. Build.


I've been celebrating teaching and JOY in my life for a couple of years now. Concentrating on the good things in my life has changed my attitude in many ways.  I shared out Friday Favorites for awhile, and then Ruth started this lovely little community of celebration.  How much fun is it to spend a few moments with others and celebrating those little moments (and sometimes some big ones!).

So this month, I've decided to join a month long "Attitude of Gratitude" blogging challenge. I love that they have questions for every day of the challenge. I looked them over and already have some great ideas for writing (always a good thing!). And on the plus side, it fits right in with Celebration Saturdays and my OLW: ALOHA


Because yesterday my husband and I celebrated our youngest son's birthday with him at a Hawkeye football game, I'm going to combine two days in one. I think they go well together....

Nov 1 What are the best aspects of being a teacher?

Nov 2 What is one small delight in the day that you always look forward to?


Being a teacher is part of my soul. It's who I am. And the best part of it--my students, of course.
I love talking with them, connecting with them, and helping them become their best. Take A, for instance. Tall and skinny, head perpetually down so that his hair sometimes hides his face, he walks into my room most days and I can almost hear "Dead Man Walking" in the distance.  My class is his nightmare, his hell on earth. But he must have it to graduate. He's been doing his speeches for me out in the hall, away from the stares of his classmates. The last one he did, his best. He looked up at me, didn't stop when another teacher stopped in the hall and listened, and genuinely gave a good speech. We're working on his delivery one step at a time. Will he ever give a speech to the class? I don't know. But just getting him to look me in the eye is a major step.

My #Crazy8s are starting genius time in class.  These eighth graders are really smart. Most things come easy to them. My goal this quarter is to challenge them, their ideas and their learning.  Genius time is a start. I still have some who want to take the easy way out, but they're getting there.

This is also the class who groaned at personal narratives. So, we are writing "This I Believe" essays. And now they are groaning because these are HARD for them to write!  It's OK though. We're taking our time. Writing together. And seeing where this prompt takes us.

You know the moments of the day I love the most (and, admittedly, don't always get)?
These:

Those moments in your room where everything is clicking and the students don't really "need" me. They are working hard, learning on their own and with each other.

One other little delight I always look forward to...walking into my room in the morning.  I love my room, it's my home away from home. It's comfortable for all of us. There are lots of different work areas--a place for everyone.

But the real little delights of my day. The little pop-in visits from students. Whether they come during my prep or after school or during a class. I love kids just stopping in to say hi.

Sometimes the conversations are longer. Juniors and seniors with open time drop in during my first hour prep because they know they can eat breakfast and get a little work done. Sometimes we don't talk, other times we chat about the inconsequential. It's quiet and peaceful and I love to start my day like this.

Others stop in to say hi after school and 45 minutes later, it's time to say good-bye. We talk about families, friends, school drama, and even politics. It's loud and giggly or sometimes quiet and somber, but always a reminder about what's important about my job.

My kids.



Friday, October 24, 2014

Mouse Story on a Foggy Day

Our house was built in the late 1800's. It's an old farmhouse, now sitting in the middle of town. Nothing fancy, just old. And with old comes lots of little places in the foundation where those cute creepy,gross little mice get in. Since our cat died several years ago, mice have been a problem in the fall (and sometimes in the winter).

Chloe has never been a mouser. Squirrels. Rabbits. Cats. Anything outside she can chase is fair game (she caught the foot of a rabbit the other day). But mice?  Nope. I think she just watches them run across the kitchen floor, if she sees them at all.

And because of Chloe, the non-mousing dog, we have to rely on non-poisonous means to get rid of mice. Our brother-in-law, an exterminator, gave us a type of trap last year but we can't remember how to set it. So glue traps it is.

Now, we seem to have very smart mice. They avoided the glue traps easily. Would go right around it, them--or maybe over them... Obsessively  Diligently, I cleaned the counter several times a day with Lysol, hoping with no crumbs lying around, the mice would go somewhere else (I hear the neighbors are nice). However they did it, every day I was finding the signs of mice on the counter.
A couple of days ago I bought those little traps where the mice go in and don't come out. Hoping these would work I put one behind the microwave, the mice version of 5 star dining, and left the one glue trap behind it.

You know where this is going, don't you?

Fast forward to today. An extremely foggy day in northeast Iowa. Foggy enough we had a two hour delay. I was up at my normal time anyway. Time for an extra cup of coffee and some reading and commenting on stories from my creative writing class.

During my second cup of coffee and second class of stories, I heard a noise, a snap from the kitchen. Evilly I smiled, Gotcha I thought. I continued reading and enjoying my coffee.

About 8:00 I decided to take a shower and get ready for school. Two hour late starts are great mornings for accomplishing things at school. I wanted to get a jump start on things for next week. And, maybe, just maybe, I also thought, If I take a shower, and pretend like I'm going to school, maybe they will cancel. A three day weekend sure sounds nice. (Come on. Don't tell me you've never had that thought).

And sure enough, I check my phone and there is the message, CANCELLED.

Cool I think. I'll have a muffin and another cup of coffee.

Cue the creepy music

I put my cup under the Keurig and push the button. And there, behind the coffee maker,

MOUSE ON A GLUE TRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Those exclamation points are not for excitement.


I'm not going to lie, I jumped and a small scream may have come from my mouth.

I grabbed my cup, inched over to the other counter, carefully avoiding looking at the coffee pot, and hurried to get the honey on my muffin and headed to the living room.



And now, here I sit. Breakfast done. Coffeeless. And waiting for hubby to take care of the mouse.