Saturday, November 30, 2013

Celebrate VII

Discover. Play. Build.

My friend Ruth has started this Saturday celebration. I find that I am constantly on the lookout for those little bits of JOY that fill my day. If you want to know about this celebration, check out the page  
Ruth created on her blog.


1. Unexpected Time
Sunday night I checked Twitter before going to bed. Our superintendent tweeted this:


An email from my principal let me know that, while staff had to report to school in the morning, we would not have students. A little tingle of excitement went through me. A day at school with no kids? Would we just "get to work"? Heaven knows I had plenty to do!

And Monday morning, that's exactly what happened. While we had to be at school, there were no kids, meetings or busy work. How many teachers could use a day to just get caught up?

I was a machine. Everything on my to-do list was completed by 4:15. I went home with NOTHING TO DO :)  (only a teacher would appreciate that statement). Now granted, it only lasted until the next morning when kids checked their grades and noticed they had missing assignments, but Monday night was sooooooooo relaxing.

2. Student Voice
I've long been an advocate for student voice and since joining the twitter chat lately, I've become more vocal about getting kids involved. The other day, we received word that the Competency Based Ed group we're working with is going to allow us to add a student to our groups and bring them to the meetings. Chalk one up for the state, listening to us and making this work.

3. Old friends and long-standing traditions
For what we think was about the 25th year, my husband and I spent Thanksgiving with old friends. "Not family?" you question. Nope, well, yes. They are our family of choice. Here's the post I wrote about them when I first started blogging.  They have now moved two and a half hours away. Our kids are all grown with families of their own. But we still get together with them.  Each year on Thanksgiving, we CELEBRATE our friendship, because tradition and friends are important. Because it matters.

Hope all of you had amazing weeks with lots to celebrate. Share your story over at Ruth's blog!




Thursday, November 28, 2013

Choosing JOY



Today seems like the day to reflect on my OLW: JOY.  I have chosen all year to focus on the little things in life that bring me JOY. Grandkid giggles, Chloe and her silliness, lightbulb moments in my students' lives, friends, family, life.

But, this is nothing new to me. I've tried to do this for many years. Was it easy?

Nope.

Was my life perfect?

Nope.

But you have to choose to be happy.

When I chose to be a 23-year-old single mom, I knew it would be hard (granted, I didn't know how hard), but I found those people who supported me and loved me. I focused on a baby who needed me to give him a good life. But, wow. There was no money. There were times I wondered if I could handle it all. I could have sat back and chose helplessness and bitterness. And then, the love of family and friends would show me I had a lot to be happy about, things to celebrate. JOY. So, I worked jobs for little money, subbed when I could, made do with what I had. Christmas's looked pretty skimpy compared to what I was used to as a kid, but we made them happy and joyful.

A wonderful man came into my life a few years down the road, and he loved  me and my little boy with all his heart. How can you not find the JOY in that. We'll have been married for 30 years next May, and for all the ups and downs in our lives, I don't regret one minute.

We were so poor when we were first married. A new baby came and our family of four lived on one very small salary in a small town far from home. We could have chosen unhappiness and loneliness. But you know what? We chose happy. Sharing those years made my husband and I friends. We survived them together. Now we look back and laugh at how we lived, but the lessons learned during them we still practice today. Our lifestyle hasn't changed a lot even though our money situation has. It's why we can afford our trailer at the lake and a trip to Hawaii and still help our kids out when they truly need the help.

Is our marriage perfect? Heavens, NO! There were times it would have been easy to walk out the door. But happiness isn't easy. JOY is hard to find. But it's there if you work for it.

Raising teenage boys who are independent and don't want advice--really hard. Lots of tears and heartache at times. But the JOY of watching them grow into self-reliant young men with families of their own, Priceless.  They are now going through their own hard times now, but their kids are happy and healthy and my grandkids know they are loved unconditionally.

When I finally began teaching, it wasn't the perfect situation (I taught two math classes for Heaven's sake), but I was teaching and there was JOY in that. And, eventually, I ended up at the high school teaching what I love. I am surrounded by friends who share my beliefs about teaching and kids. I have administrators who let me teach with my heart. And I have the best students in the world. I learn from them every day.

I've stretched my wings this year and tried new things. I've made many new "friends" online. People who also stretch my thinking and challenge what I thought I knew.

And there is JOY in all of that.

So today, no matter what else is happening in your life, take a moment. Look at all you have. Eat too much. Watch a parade. Laugh with the people you love.

Because there is JOY in that.






Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Quiet of the Morning


I have first hour prep this year and, at first, I didn't think I would like it. But I've come to appreciate this start to my day.


No bell signals
Students move by instinct 
to where they need to go

The hum of the furnace 
in the background
as I drink coffee 
and
plan my day.

They enter quietly.
"Can I work in your comfy chairs?"
"Sure. thanks for asking."
Another enters.
"Morning, Mrs. Day. I've changed my story again."
"What are you writing about now?"

We conference.
She works.
I work.
The hum of the furnace
and
the clicking of keys
accompany 
the quiet of my morning.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Celebrate VI: A Week of Professional JOY

Discover. Play. Build.
My friend Ruth has started this Saturday celebration. I find that I am constantly on the lookout for those little bits of JOY that fill my day. If you want to know about this celebration, check out the page Ruth created on her blog.


Professional Learning
Tuesday I spent in Des Moines with not only staff from my district, but teams from 9 other districts in Iowa learning about Competency Based Education. All ten teams were awarded a grant to study and develop competencies for the state of Iowa.. It's a one year commitment, with no mandate to implement. It's really a group that will study and learn together. Some of the teams have actually begun CBE in their districts. Others, like ours are just in the investigating stages. I'm looking forward to this learning. I've always wanted learning to be more concrete. For learning to wrap around students' passions. CBE will hopefully fulfill those wants!

Professional Development
Wednesday was an inservice day in our district. And most of our inservices this year are personally directed. We study and learn about what interests us, what will help us become better teachers. My learning community are those in the district who are flipping one or more of their classes. We're settling down into a groove. Wednesday we listened to a fellow teacher explain how he wants to see his classroom progress. He knows he's not there yet, but it was his vision for the future. There was a little philosophical disagreement, but that brought out great conversation and really made him think about his teaching. And isn't that what professional development should do?

 Personal JOY
Spending the weekend at our youngest son's home and babysitting the grandkids today.  The middle one, Tony,  crawled in my lap for morning hugs. A little sneaky grin showed up. Knowing him well, I asked what he wanted. 

"Remember at the cabin we have hot chocolate in the morning?"

It's our tradition, Tony and I, to sit and have hot chocolate and coffee together in the morning when they stay with us. We're the early birds (although little brother Max often joins us now). We talk about our weeks, the plans for the day, and sometimes, just silly stuff. Today, however, we made the all important Christmas list.






So these are my celebrations this week. What brought a smile to your heart?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Celebrate: Week 5


Discover. Play. Build.

So loving that Ruth has started this Saturday celebration. I find that I am constantly on the lookout for those little bits of JOY that fill my day. If you want to know about this celebration, check out the page Ruth created on her blog.

1. SPEECH HAS STARTED!  Since the first day of school, kids have asked, "When's speech start?" I almost should start a count down calendar :)  But this week, I started improv practices. It's good to be back. We all have a blast and laugh all the time. We are so loud some nights that others come down to check out what's going on.  I love these kids.

2. STUDENT VOICES I participated in a great chat Tuesday run by high school and college students. I was so inspired by what young people are capable of.

3. SHOPPING  Hubby and I are on our way to do a little shopping. Some for Christmas, but mostly for Hawaii!  Only 35 days!

Hope you all had an amazingly joyful week!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

#stuvoice


#stuvoice is a movement and a chat I've been lurking around for awhile now. The hashtag began in the last year and is gaining momentum. Monday night, an Iowa student (not one of mine. I haven't met Jack--yet) who was co-moderating invited me to join in. So, of course, I did (you know how mucu I love Twitter chats!). 

Jack and Ian are both Iowa students from different parts of the state. They join in ed chats, attend edcamps, and share their voices through blogs that they write on their own time. How cool is that? I have followed both of them for a few months and find that they challenge my thinking at times and I love that. Together, they organized the Iowa Student Learning Institute that took place last month (I swear, I'm getting a group together to go next year).

Zak and Clement are college students. I think it was Zak who started the #stuvoice movement, but Clement has joined the cause as the "Director of Community Engagement" (I love that title). There's also a website  stuvoice.org  These two really get things going with their questions and ideas. 

With these four guys in charge, conversation and thinking never slowed down. Ideas were shared and challenged. Getting students involved in edcamps and PD (would you listen to a student during an inservice?). Asking for student voice on school committees. Letting students form their own ed committees. Think of all the ways that students could share their voice in education, after all, we always say "students first".

At the same time this chat was going on, my principal was presenting to the school board. Our high school received a large grant to participate in a study of Competency Based Learning. We'll be heading to Des Moines once a month and a trip to a high school in New Hampshire is in the works. I immediately thought about getting students on this committee. Here's our exchange:


This wasn't lip service. The next day he tweets a student and asks to see her. They meet. She and and maybe another will be joining the committee when we go to New Hampshire, and hopefully, local meetings.   This is a good thing. Students should have this voice. Last year, students were instrumental on our 1to1 committee. I've worked with students on a Respect committee. Always they step up and amaze me. 

I hope what I'm getting across is to get students involved in their education, because if we are really all about the students, we need to ask their opinions and we need to listen to their answers. They will challenge us, question us, and disagree with us, but who else knows what best for kids?

As for the young men I wrote about earlier, take the time to follow them on Twitter. I can't tell you how inspirational these young men are. They are taking charge of their learning. They question and push. And they will help you become a better educator.

Jack: @jackhostager   listentostudents.blogspot.com
Ian:    @IanCoon        iancoon.blogspot.com
Zak:   @zakmal          stuvoice.org
Clement: @clement26

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Three Books


Oscar Wilde, an Irish writer and poet, supposedly once said, "Books, I fancy, may be conveniently divided into three classes: 1. Books to read 2. Books to reread 3. Books not to read at all."  


Make your own list. Add a few books to each category and explain your thinking.

Requirements for this post:
  • 150 word minimum
  • two books for each category
  • an explanation for each book why it belongs in that category
  • picture(s)
  • Spell-check, edited

I asked my freshmen to write the above post for their blog this week. I thought it only fair that I write it also. I think it will be harder for me to narrow down my choices than it will be for my ninth graders :)


Books to Read:

This is my longest list because I have so many books on my TBR list. Here are the two that I think right now top the list:






I have a huge author crush on Maggie Stiefvater. I just love the way she writes. While this book is sitting on my desk, I haven't started it yet because I'm waiting for a day where I can read the whole thing in one sitting. Or maybe in two sittings. I want to savor it.









Fangirl  is also on my list because so many people have said great things about it. A former student said it was possibly the best book of 2013 and I trust her book choices. 



Others on the list: Gym Candy by Carl Deuker (my boys love it. have to see what the fuss is about) 




BOOKS TO REREAD:




Even though I have read this book twenty five times, I feel a Gone With the Wind marathon coming on. I haven't read it in years and I've changed a lot since the thirteen-year-old girl I was when I read it the first time--or even the forty-something I was when I read it the last time. Think it's time for the fifty-six-year old to see what she thinks and what she learns as she reads it.








I simply love this story. So the Inkheart series is dear to my heart. How can a reader not love the story of book characters who come to life? I've been thinking about Meggie and her dad a lot lately. A sure sign I need a reread.




Others on the list; The Harry Potter Series. Missing those characters also.



BOOKS NOT TO READ:




I have never been a fan of the British classics. I've read a few of them and find them stuffy and boring. Pride and Prejudice has all that, I think. I've tried to read it three times in the last few years, because it's one of Roomie's favorite books. I just don't get it. I hear by give myself permission to never try to read it again. 








With so  many fantastic young adult novels out there, with great characters and plots, can we just forget about this one?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ho`olaule`a

Discover. Play. Build.
Like this idea? Head over to Ruth's blog and read some more. Better yet, share your own celebrations there, or on Facebook or tweet it out using the hashtag #celebrationlu  No matter what, celebrate what you do!



Good conferences with parents tops the list this week. Yes, there are such things.  In high school, parents don't always feel the need to come to conferences, although we have an online scheduler that allows them to create their own schedule at the times that are convenient for them. Still, we don't get all of them  (like maybe a fourth of them).

But the ones we do get are interested in their child's education and it usually shows in the child. I even had a couple say to me "She's kind of a perfectionist. It's good for her to struggle once in awhile." I found that so refreshing (Who are we kidding? I was jumping up and down with JOY). So many parents are only after the "A" and they forget about the learning.

And speaking of learning...
my freshmen were disappointed that we didn't have school on Friday this week. "What?" I can hear you screaming. "High schoolers disappointed about a day off from school!  What planet are you from?"  My secret weapon? Genius Time.  They were disappointed they didn't get Genius Time this week.  As much as I would have loved to give it to them on Thursday, we needed to finish up an activity so we could move on next week. The best part of the whining (who ever thought I'd say something like that) is that it came from kids who don't have much interest in school. Just goes to show, choice matters.

But, here's what I'm really celebrating this week....

HAWAII

My husband and I have been planning a trip to Hawaii with his sister and her husband for over a year. We'll be celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniversary and they will be celebrating their twentieth.  One night a year and a half ago they called and told us their plans and asked if we would want to go with them. Of course, we said yes.

And so this weekend we are together. We'll meet with our travel agent this morning to get things finalized, to ask our questions and in six weeks, WE'RE OFF! It will be odd to be gone for Christmas, but it was the only time that worked for all four of us, so Christmas it is.

10 Days in Hawaii. My husband has never been able to take a vacation that long until now. But since he semi-retired this past summer, we can do this.  

For so long it seemed a lifetime away, so we didn't talk about it much, but now,  it's much closer. 

It's not too early to pack, is it?

Until next week, Aloha. 

By the way, the title of this post? Celebration in Hawaiian according to http://www.mauimapp.com/

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Rethinking

I taught junior high for 15 years. I was young, a new teacher, and full of enthusiasm. If there was a committee, I joined it. If it needed to be done, I did it.

When I transferred to the high school, I quit doing anything. I was burnt out. Tired of being the go to girl. A big part of not wanting to be involved was feeling like I was involved in a dog and pony show. No one really took what I thought seriously. I was just a teacher, after all.

Three years with my current principal has convinced me to throw my hat back in the ring. This year I volunteered to be on the 7-12 Academic Building Leadership Team (BLT). Tonight, my principal just made me smile and wish I had many more years to teach.

We've been talking about the classes we offer, whether they have to be leveled by grade or if we could open many of them up and let kids take them when they want. It was brought up that some areas need to be leveled. There are just some classes you need to take before others. We all agreed. Someone mentioned English might be one of those areas.

My principal knows me too well.

I must have been making a face.

"Speak up Mrs. Day." He knows that I hate speaking out in meetings, especially when I think my voice doesn't matter. I also don't really want to ruffle any feathers. But, I know that my voice matters to him. He really wants to know what I think. He really will make things happen if it's in the realm of possibility. He really listens.

Here's my thought. I don't think we need "English 9" and  "English 10". I think we need to make sure they pass the standards at those grade levels. Students should be able to read and think and write. They should be able to comprehend complex text and offer their opinions. They should ask questions and know how and where to find answers. They should solve their own problems. We should offer classes that help them meet those ideals and then let them move on.

We don't need the labels (Someone smarter than me called this Standards Based Grading). When I write a lesson plan, create a unit (or a class), I think about what I want my students to be able to do when they leave my room.But I don't believe that the 10th grade class depends on what is learned in the 9th grade class. I believe we give students two years to meet standards.

What made me smile was the rather rebellious remark by my principal (and I'm paraphrasing here).

"I'd like to throw it all out. All the grade levels, classes, all of it. We need to say here's what you need to know. How about it we said,' You need some help in English? Show up with Mrs. Day in the morning. You need to know how to do something in Math. Meet at 1:00."

I love that my principal wants to rethink school as we know it because I believe that needs to happen.

What will that look like?

I don't know. He doesn't know either.

I'm not sure it will happen in my teaching life.

But I sure would like to see it.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Family JOY

Discover. Play. Build.
Celebrate your world this week at http://www.ruthayreswrites.com/
It's a great place to share all those little moments of JOY that happen during the week.
It's been a crazy world this week, but there were plenty moments of JOY finding their way into my world and most of it revolved around family.

1. Last week both of our sons and their families came for the weekend. Everyone being together is one of my biggest JOYs. There were so many little moments....
Just like old times, the boys had to play a little basketball. It wasn't long before their kids joined in the fun. Even Grandpa got in the act at one point!


It was a Pinterest weekend, so my daughter-in-law brought things the kids could do too. They made bats and wrote little skits to perform. After that was cookie baking time. Everyone got to help with that (really, my daughter-in-law should be an elementary school teacher--patience of a saint!)

Found a little time to go to the park a couple blocks away. Although there's a great play set there, rolling down the hill was everyone's favorite thing to do.


2. Also celebrating my mom this week. She had a heart ablation on Wednesday, which went much better than we expected. In and out in a day. Amazing the things doctors can do now. And how about a shout out to the substitute teachers who jump into our worlds and keep things running smoothly when we have to be gone. So thankful for the one who stepped in for me while I spent two days with Mom.  

3. Spent a couple hours last night bonding with my school family. They are those like-minded teachers that I can have important conversations about teaching and students, but can have fun with too. Last night was all about the fun. Much needed before conferences week.


These are things I celebrate this week. How about you? What little moments brought you JOY?