Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Little Bits of JOY






Last week was a tough one in our community. So it's been important for me to find my JOY in the last few days. I need the reminder that life is good.





1. Amidst the tears, there was laughter. Nothing made me feel better than hearing a group of students laughing and crying while sharing memories of friend. I know they were devastated, but it was good to hear them laugh. There was also laughter after school with the little giggles of a colleagues young sons, untouched by the tragedy in the high school. Happy giggles rang out from her room one afternoon after school and it just made me smile.

2. I love my husband for many reasons, but last week it was for his understanding and compassion. From the time the phone call came on Sunday afternoon, he made sure I was OK, whether it was a hug, a shared tear or taking me out to dinner one night, he made sure I was handling the situation.

3. Personal Day. I had requested the day off a couple of weeks ago so that we could open the cabin. I was beginning to wonder if it was worth taking it off. Our cabin is three hours away in they have had A LOT of snow in APRIL. Including last Monday. But the week warmed up and off we went. It was a gorgeous weekend. That itself was worthy of JOY.

4. Once we unloaded the car, I actually took off and went to the local high school. My school and the one in the town where our cabin is at are working on some collaborative projects (and believe it or not, I didn't have anything to do with it). I emailed the teacher I am working with and asked if I could visit her classroom for the afternoon (thanks again Christy for getting me thinking about this.) It was a great afternoon observing someone else and we've made some plans for next school year.

5. Grandkids came to stay Friday night. I received lots of love and hugs from them all weekend. Plus giggles were all around me.


The oldest two decided it must be time to swim, so they of course had to try it. Yes, it was cold, but they are kids after my heart. I did the same thing when I was little. How else do you learn when the lake is too cold?




We did a little golfing, threw a whole lot of rocks in the lake, cuddled, told stories, read books, sang silly songs, visited with friends, played with Chloe and Bella, grilled hot dogs, and fell asleep exhausted each night.
It was a wonderful weekend.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Successes

I've done three things a bit differently this semester. In January, I began giving my freshmen 10 minutes

every day

to read the book of their choice.  I wasn't sure how it would go. 

They hate to read.

And then, at the beginning of fourth quarter, I added a blogging challenge. I post on Sunday. Their post is due the next Sunday.

                                                                 They hate to write.

And then, I began instituting Genius Time every Friday (except for this Friday. I have to be gone. We've had a week. I was gone two days last week. We just needed to do the mainstream on Friday).

They hate to think.

You want to know something? 

I was wrong. 

They proved me wrong.

They read every day.

and they don't hate it.

(Well, not most of them)

In fact, they have read more than I thought possible. Someone asks me every day for a new book recommendation. I'm running out of ideas for some of them. And I once thought they'd never find books on their own. But you know what?  Not only are some finding them on their own, but they recommend to others. And although they don't like every book I recommend or they pick out, they give them a fair chance and have a good reason to abandon the book. I'm OK with this. Life's too short to read bad books. My students are becoming discriminating. I count this as a success.

They write every week (most of them)

and they are getting pretty good.

When we first started blogging, the posts weren't all that good. They did the minimum and that was about it. Their thinking was shallow. I thought about quitting. But I didn't. And I'm glad. I've had some say, "This post was pretty fun." There are posts that are so thoughtful I have to read them again. Some are writing twice as much as they did when I started.  I count this as a success. 

They have passions.

They are figuring out how to make movies, learning about what a grandfather endured during WWII and  concentration camps and POW's, figuring out how to write songs and what their dreams mean. Today when I told them I would be gone tomorrow and gave them the itinerary for the day, I heard this, "It's Friday. Why aren't we doing Genius Time?" I explained. They understood. But I better not take it away next week. I count this as a success.

But here's the thing. 

Would the state, would the testing count these as successes? I don't know. I have't seen test scores for my students yet. I'm not sure I want to see them. But maybe I do. An email from our principal said, "Preliminary analysis of the results are favorable for the high school. Some of the data is shockingly positive." I don't know if that means my kids, but I know the results in my classroom are positive. 

And I count that as a success.



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

They Never Prepare You

They never prepare you for this~
the death of a student~especially a suicide.

They never prepare you
for the silence
for the echo in the hallways
even though students walk through them

They never prepare you
for the sound of laughter being intrusive
even when it's the sound you crave the most.

They never prepare you
for the revolving door
of students
coming in just for a hug.

They never prepare you
for the rumors
and the anger
for the way teenagers grieve and
the things they expect

Thank heavens
for the boy who says
"Can I be that guy that plays happy songs?"
for the tweet
"We love you, Mrs. Day"

Because they never prepare you

Monday, April 22, 2013

D. 4/21/13

Every Morning:

"Mornin' D. How are you today?"
"Mornin" Ms. Day. I'm good."
Head down.
Capped pulled low.
Hair in eyes.

Some mornings:

"Mornin' D. Would you take this down to my room?"
"No prob, Ms. Day"

Last Week:
I miss D sitting on the planters texting 
who knows who
at 7:30am.
I miss D and our two sentence conversations.

Yesterday:
A one sentence conversation
"D committed suicide this morning."

Today:
I thought I was fine,
ready for what the day had to bring,
But the planter knocked me for a loop.

Good-bye D.
I'll miss you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Through The Looking Glass





A week later, and I am still reveling in the experience of having Christy in my classroom. I've tried writing about it, but the right words just haven't appeared.

But, I'm going to try one more time.




Seeing your classroom through another's eyes

Nerve wracking, intimidating  What if she "looks behind the curtain" and sees I'm really just a crappy teacher? What if she thinks I don't really do anything all day long? Why the heck does she want to see me?

Seeing your classroom through another's eyes

affirming, exhilerating It was a validation of sorts. I must be doing something right.

Seeing your classroom through another's eyes

fun, wishful  Someone to laugh about the goings on of silly girls and crazy boys. Someone who talks books like I do. What a great room we would have together.

As soon as I walked through the motel door to pick her up, I felt like I'd known Christy forever. There was an immediate connection. Have you ever felt that? Knowing from the first minute that this is a person who you commect with, who will be/is an important commection in your life?

That's what it felt like with Christy.

Normal. That's what it felt like to have her in my room. Like she was meant to be there. We have often commented we wished we taught across the hall from each other. Now I wish we team taught a class. It was fun to introduce her to my classes. In each there was a look of disbelief that 1) she drove six hours to observe our classroom 2) Christy and I hadn't "met" before that morning.  The looks were priceless. We'd just look at each other and laugh. It's hard to explain to others how you can be friends without every having met face to face.

Dinner

Where we talked about what Christy saw in my room. Things I didn't know I did--she makes me sound so wonderful. I don't always feel so wonderful. I don't feel I intentionally do some of the things she saw. But I know I do them. They just don't seem so amazing on a day to day basis. But when Christy pointed them out, I saw those moments through someone elses' eyes and I realized sometimes I get it right. Although my room usually loud and crazy and may look like not a lot of work is getting done, sometimes that's just what it takes.

So a week later, I am more intentional in the things I do in my classroom. I'm trying to remember all those little things. I'm letting kids settle in, I'm giving them time to think and write and share. I'm laughing and enjoying them more. This visit came just at the right time in the year--right at the end, when patience is wearing thin and it's easy to say "they should know this by now."  They don't know this. They are kids, just like they have been since the beginning of the year. MY kids. And we'll work the way that fits us best.

And can you tell I'm still thinking about all of this? The words still don't make much sense. I'm not sure I've shared anything with all of you, but the reflecting will keep going.

And in the meantime, I think I've got some visiting to do...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Today It Happened

Back in mid-October I (and Linda, from TeacherDance) received an email from our friend , Christy (Rush-Levine). Ruth (as in Ayres) was going to visit and observe in her classroom. She was a little nervous about Ruth coming to her room. I could sympathize, I mean, after all, it was RUTH!

Here's what Christy said to me, "  I mean, it's Ruth we're talking about here.  She gets things right.  What if Friday turns out to be one of those days--you know, the kind where you feel like you are playing whack-a-mole more than you are teaching?  What if where I am in implementing a workshop approach is "so two years ago" in Ruth's world?  These are the thoughts that keep me up at night.  Well, those and what do I wear?"  (Yes, Christy, I still have the emails)

After the visit, another email. This one full of excitement about the visit and the things she took away from it. Ruth posted about the experience also. I was so jealous of the experience they had together. They are both teachers and writers that I admire and to think of the two of them together in the same room. Wow. I could only imagine the smart conversations taking place.

And, oh yeah, there was also this part of the email,  "The past two days were absolutely incredible.  Ruth posted about the power of observation as professional development; it is so true.  Even as the person being observed, I was pushed to grow as I explained my practices and listened to their responses.  

My first thought as soon as they left was, "I need to find a way to visit Deb's classroom."  I am not sure a visit to see Linda is in my budget, but that was my second thought.  I am serious.  Can we work something out Deb?  How far away from Chicago are you?  Could I make that drive in a day?  I would plan to stay in a hotel overnight, of course, but are you close enough to make it work?  Would I be allowed to come observe?"


Of course, I said yes.

But, I didn't think it would really happen. 

And then in March, there was another email. Christy had spring break in April. Could she come then?

Of course I said yes.

But, I didn't think it would really happen.

Emails went back and forth. Details worked out.

She was coming to visit!

But, I didn't think it would really happen.

But today

It did. 


I'll have more to write tomorrow about this incredible visit. I've got lots to think about and reflect on. The power of observation....

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spring. Soon. Please.

It's hard to tell if you just glance out the window


It still looks like winter here in northeast Iowa.


But if you pay attention and look closely, there are signs of spring.

Tulips are peeking through the not-so-frozen ground.


Basketballs are bouncing.


Jump ropes are jumping.


The warmth of the sun finds its way through the cold breezes of leftover winter.

Soon.