Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Connecting to JOY, ALOHA, BALANCE and ....

And I wait.

Every year. I wait.

I wait for that one little word to show itself.

Every year.

First, was CONNECT in 2012.  I didn't write publicly about that one. But I think it made an impact on me :)

In 2013, JOY came to me over our family's Christmas celebration.  JOY visits me daily. And I find I don't have to look for it much any more. JOY just shows up and I am smart enough to enjoy those moments.





At the end of 2013 my husband and I traveled to Hawaii with his sister and her husband.There were so many wonderful moments in that trip.  I kept a travel journal to remind me of the little moments that I never wanted to forget.  Two years later, I still look back on that trip as a life changing experience.  And on the last day,

ALOHA

 found me for 2014. I practiced my word whenever I could. I found that JOY joined in and that my one little words were forming a family.

I learned to live ALOHA so well, that I was afraid to try on a new word for 2015. I was sure I would come up with one. But you know what? If you pay attention to the moments in your life, that One Little Word just appears in your life one day. And so it was, that BALANCE showed up just in time for 2015.

It wasn't a sexy word, but it was the word I needed at the time. I tried to slow down and enjoy every moment. You see, school and work were taking more of my time than I really wanted to give.  I was ignoring and putting off the other important parts of my life. I need to find a way to give equal parts of myself. I needed to enjoy moments in each part of my life without feeling guilty about the other parts.
Sometimes, I think that I didn't do so well with BALANCE. I feel like there is still work to do with this word. But as with the others, I know it hasn't left me. It just sits back and lets the new word enjoy the spotlight, enjoy the MOMENTS.


My One Little Word for 2016:

MOMENTS
It seems to fit my family of words well. In the last few days, it has just appeared in my mind. Making me think. Reminding me to enjoy it. Reminding me to not dwell in the past nor gaze into the future. To just enjoy the here and now. The MOMENTS.




Saturday, November 14, 2015

I Just Can't Stop Smiling

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About 9:30 yesterday morning a Facebook message put a smile on my face and a happy tear in my eye. I haven't stopped smiling since. I'm not trying to be cryptic, but it's not my story to share, not really. So I'll keep my mouth shut, my keyboarding fingers quiet, a smile on my face and wait til it's OK to share. 

But after that good news, the day just kept getting better.

I finished grading my Creative Writing students' Digital Storytelling projects. Wow. Most of the kids did an amazing job. Some are heartbreaking. Some are disturbing.  And I'm not going to sugarcoat it, some are awful.  Well, not awful really. They just didn't spend the time on the assignment that it required, and what they ended up with was just incomplete. I'm sharing out more of them on our Facebook page and through Twitter #CWFierce if you'd like to see some more.

Here's one of my favorites:



Then I got home and checked my personal email. A letter for Chloe from Sam and a note from Ruth made my smile even bigger.  We're finally going to meet face to face! At NCTE! Next week! For Lunch! Ruth is one of my bucket list people, you know. I feel like we've been great friends for awhile, we just haven't sat down face to face.  And if meeting Ruth is anything like meeting Christy, well, we'll talk like we've known each other forever!

There are others on my bucket list also--and I've started connecting with them through Twitter and Facebook. I hope I have enough time to go to sessions!

NCTE.  It's this coming week, you know. And this old,  experienced teacher is going to be attending her very first one.  Sometimes, it seems like a waste for me to attend. I've only a year or two left before I retire. Maybe someone else should go. But then I think how much it excites me just to think about it and I know that this experience will rejuvenate me.  So I'll be spending the next few days scouring the program, scratching down sessions, crossing them off, scratching down new ones and waiting impatiently for the app to be released.

I've got my list of things to pack. I've extra boxes in the car to bring books home. I've got a rolling bag to drag through the convention (though that may be overkill). I've got the author signing list in my folder, books to take for the swap on Sunday, comfortable shoes (and I am shopping today just in case I need some new ones). I've read all the blogs I've found for navigating NCTE. Followed advice on Twitter. I am ready.

Can it be Thursday already?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Making Writing Fun Again

I've learned something in the last few years of teaching Creative Writing. High school students don't think writing is fun. According to their writing autobiographies, writing in school is dull and lifeless and done only according to teacher directions. No voice. No choice. No fun.

Sometimes, I forget that too.


This week was conference week and a great time to remind us all that writing is fun, creative and doable. These activities I used with my juniors and seniors and also with my eighth graders, who will also be writing fiction stories.  I have to say, the eighth graders are waaayyyy more excited about writing stories than the high schoolers are.


Monday we all wrote from picture prompts. I've been pinning these great pictures for awhile now and have used them in class several times. Kids get done with this assignment and always say, "That was fun."  The premise is simple. Students work in groups of three. They are given a picture with these directions:

WRITER #1: Tell the story about what was happening when this picture was taken
WRITER #2: Add to the first writer's story. 
WRITER #3: Share your thoughts or the life lesson. 
WRITER #1: Read the story. Edit and revise it for clarity. Give it a title. 
The idea and the questions aren't mine (as soon as I find the originator again, I'll be sure to credit!)

I give each writer three minutes and then they pass. When we've gone through the directions, it's time to share. And guess what? My high schoolers stand up in front of the class and read their writing! That's HUGE in my room.  So did my eighth graders, but it's not quite as big a deal with them :)


On Tuesday, my Creative Writing students wrote pass around stories in groups of five to seven (8th graders did this Wednesday). I gave them a story starter prompt (again, found some online), a sheet of paper and a clipboard.  Each student wrote one sentence and then kept passing the clipboard around for fifteen or twenty minutes. The eighth graders were so excited about these that one group acted theirs out!




Thursday was our last day of the week and my high school kids needed the period to share their digital storytelling projects with me, but the eighth graders wrote partner stories with Story Cubes. There are lots of ways to use Story Cubes, but I just rolled the dice and asked kids to write a story, trying to use all the images on the dice. The way this activity went, I'm pretty sure they will beg to finish them on Monday.

This all seems so simple as I write it that I'm not sure I should even share this post. But it's such a celebration of writing fun in a high school writing class that I just had to. If you had been there and seen the smiles, heard the laughter, you'd be celebrating too! 



Saturday, October 31, 2015

Celebrating Friendship Through The Tears

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Our Sandbar gang last weekend. A getaway planned before cancer struck. A getaway continued so we could share our strength with friends who need all they can get right now.

My sister, the survivor, is in white. These are her cronies, to whom I will always be indebted. They loved and took care of my sister when I couldn't be there.

You don't see them looking at these pictures, but tears have been shed lately.
Lots of tears.
Because cancer sucks.

The last year has been tough. My baby sister (God, she'll hate that) was diagnosed with colon cancer last winter. A grapefruit sized tumor was found. But rounds of chemo and radiation shrunk that tumor to nothing and surgery was successful. As she finishes her last rounds of post surgery chemo, we have lots to celebrate.  She is a survivor.

Her group of friends, the "Cronies" as they call themselves, have been amazing. They are her strength. They keep her smiling through it all. They are her other family. I love them for that.

A couple of weeks ago, our dear friend, Tom, my "other husband"  (the guy in the middle of the top picture) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He's got a tough road ahead. We all know it. But we celebrate that it was found earlier than most. That he has a gifted medical team, who are doing everything they can to beat this thing. 

Yes. Cancer sucks.
But cancer can't take away friends and family who love you. 

No matter what.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why I Write


I often tell students that I don't remember not reading.  Well, when I think about it, I don't really remember not writing either. I've always loved putting pen to paper (Flair markers, thank you. Black or Brown are my favorite colors).  And I am a paper and pen kind of person...I love my computer and I love writing blog posts and connecting online, but when I really need to write, paper and pen are my go-to supplies.

When I need to sort out emotions, I write.  I look back into some notebooks and am amazed at the feelings that explode from them. I don't always remember the catalyst behind the page, but usually I do. Because it was important enough to write about.

I write to remember and reflect.  Oh, I write the usual to-do lists. There's a certain satisfaction in drawing a line through those to-dos. But the most important remembers that I write are those things I want to go back and savor again.  Special moments. Special people. Special emotions.  They need to be saved and brought back out again in moments of despair or crisis.

I write for fun.  I love playing with words and styles. I try out poetry. I write in my dog's voice (Hence the title, Coffee With Chloe), I write with my students (how can I assign something I haven't tried myself?).

I write to share. I share my writing with students. I write in front of them and I provide mentor texts. I share my blog with others online. Not because I think I'm so wonderful, but because writing about my experiences allows me to connect with others and we create shared experiences.

I write because it's part of who I am.
I wouldn't be me.
I wouldn't know me,
if I didn't write.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Small Moments

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Sometimes,
when your world seems to be
crashing
in around you

when the universe 
throws so much at you that 
your JOY,
your ALOHA,
can't BALANCE things out,

you need to relish 
the small moments.

Beautiful morning mists 
hovering just above the corn


Unexpected gifts
just because they thought of you


Sharing the unshareable
with those who do not judge.


Facebook family messages
that make us laugh and smile
through tears for others.


These small moments
remind us how 
Grateful
we are for those who have
come into our life.









Thursday, October 8, 2015

No One Ever Told Me

I spent some time thinking this past Banned Book Week  how lucky I've been when it comes to books and reading...

No one ever told me I couldn't read Gone With The Wind at twelve because it was inappropriate or too old for me, or that it wasn't good literature. When I began to read it, both my mom and grandmother were excited that I was trying a book they both loved. I talked about it with both of them. Shared my thoughts, talked about Scarlett's good points, cried when Mellie died. It didn't scar me, because I have read it 25 times and get something new out of it with each read.

I grew up in a family of readers, each with their own preferences that they shared with me. Grandma read True Story magazine, Grandpa read the newspaper.

My mom and dad always had books going and a pile that was waiting to be read.

My dad loved the grand historical novels of Herman Wouck and James Michner. Those led me to Steinbeck, whom I loved. I was never assigned his books in school (well, college maybe), but when I discovered him in the library, I read everything he wrote. Still today, I love the possibilities and new worlds that big, thick books offer.

Mom loved what we called "trashy novels", those romantic, often historical novels by authors whose names I no longer remember. I often looked up the historical facts I found in those novels, just to make sure they were true. I think I learned more history as a result of reading those books than I ever did in school.  I loved them. Today, I have my students do a mini research of a time period before we read books like Fahrenheit 451  or Night. It's important to put things in context.

Mom also loved the gothic novels of Victoria Holt. And without that introduction I would not have found Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.... a canon book for me. And the spookiness of that is I'm sure what led me to Stephen King, an author I can't get enough of (and he writes BIG books, which satisfies that passion).

And all that freedom in my own reading as a kid carried through when I began teaching. It never occurred to me to give anything but choice to my students.

When I began my classroom library, no one told me I had to have the books approved. There was no lengthy process to go through to get approval for a book. If I found value in it, in the library it went. I've been trusted as an educator, as a reader, to choose the books my students have access to.

I'm so lucky that no one ever told me what books to read and buy.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Celebrate!

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I think sometimes the lake pulls out all the stops at the end of the season, creating beautiful sunrises and sunsets just to remind us what we will miss when we close for the season. I'm just going to sit here awhile longer this morning sipping my coffee and enjoying the view.



I'm celebrating writing again. Inspiration seems to be finding me :)  I wrote yesterday about books I wouldn't have read if I didn't have a classroom library.  I kept trying to fit in all the books that I loved that I wouldn't have read, but there were just too many of them. I do know that they all started with Harry Potter.  I love that this year, one of my eighth graders started the series. She loves them and it's fun to watch someone experience them for the first time (and there's another celebration).

I've been sharing celebrations with students, staff and community through a new Facebook page, A Day in Room 25.  I love taking kids pictures and sharing out their work.  I'm getting a lot of "Mrs. Day, you should share that!" Or "Mrs. Day, are you going to put that on Facebook?"  I want it to be a little more interactive, but we have a good start.

I'm getting ready for NCTE.  I keep looking through the sessions and changing my mind about what I want to do. Except for one. The High School Matters session with Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher and Carol Jago is a must.  Seeing all three of these master teachers together will be worth the price of admission!

Other celebrations this morning---

  • flavored coffee and snuggly blankets
  • electric blankets (it is chilly at the lake!)
  • good books (I'm reading The Death of Bees. Strong voice in this one)
  • Chloe snuggles
  • soup
  • the crispness of a fall day
  • crunchy leaves
  • sunrise
  • students who really write
  • and read
Do you have celebrations to share?  Check out Ruth Ayre's site and share along with us!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Thank goodness my classroom library isn't just for me...

This morning I read Pernille Ripp's newest blog post. You should probably read it first. And it got me thinking about all the books I wouldn't have read if my library was just for me.

If my classroom library was just for me I never would know what a muggle was and imagined a game of quidditch. I wouldn't have cried over the death of a wizard or cheered the death of another.

I wouldn't have jumped into the land of a book and and loved the  silver tongues that brought words to life.

I definitely wouldn't have raced the capall uisce up the beach on the first of November, nor tracked ley lines with the Raven Boys.

If my classroom library were just for me, there would have been no fantasy, no magical reality.







I wouldn't have played games of life and death.
I wouldn't have lived in a world with no color and loved a giver of memories.
I wouldn't have lived in the future and wondered how we could keep those things from happening.

If my classroom library were just for me dystopian novels would not be there.












I wouldn't have cried over a football coach from just down the road or someone else's crazy lab. I wouldn't have experienced a soldier's life or rode a bus with her sister.

















Because my classroom library lives for others I met Hazel and Gus, fell in love with Ryan Dean, shared a praying mantis with others, wished I could give the sun and traveled back to a very different Oz. And Auggie wouldn't have reminded me to #choosekind

Thank goodness my classroom library isn't just for me...



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Celebrating Resilency

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Not gonna lie.

At some points this week I felt I was drowning in despair.

Students are writing expressive/reflective pieces for me and the stories I am reading are not the happy-go-lucky, beach party, silly teenage antics that so many people believe high school student life is like.

I'm reading stories of abuse and neglect, family suicide, and homelessness.
I'm reading stories of loneliness
I'm reading stories of self-abuse, family issues, and fear of deportation.

They believed me when I told them

Your Story Matters.

They took those words to heart and shared with me the parts of themselves they seldom share with others. They trusted me.  And slowly, most of them are trusting at least one other student in class with that story.

That's reason to celebrate.

They laugh, they smile, they relax in my room.

That's reason to celebrate.

They are committed to finishing school and they come most days and work hard to make the ending to their story happy.

And that's reason to celebrate.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I Failed Today

I failed today.

I removed a student from my room. Not that the removal wasn't warranted in most cases.

But I know this kid. Know him well. I know that when the insubordinate, defiant voice comes out he is hurting. I know something happened in his world that added a few more bricks to his wall.

I intended to find him a quiet spot where he could be alone, but one sentence changed all that.

"Good. I need to meet the new principal anyway."

Fine I thought Let me introduce you.

That was my failure. I let him goad me into something I had no intention of doing. He pushed a button and I reacted.

And it wasn't what he needed.

He needed a spot away from others to nurse whatever wounds had been opened. He needed me to understand, to be a sounding board, to be a safe place.

I had one job today and I failed.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Good Kind of Tired

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We've just finished our first full week of school--with kids. If you teach, you understand how I fell back to sleep for another hour this morning when I really intended to just close my eyes and cuddle Chloe for a few minutes.

If you teach, you'll understand why I slept most of the way to the lake last night. And that when we got to the cabin, I put my pjs on and wrapped up in a blanket for the rest of the night.

It's a good kind of tired.

It's the tired of learning new names and making sure to talk and connect with every single kid that walks in my room.

It's the tired of creating family with a group of strangers

and

Of making my room a safe place to land.

It's the tired of finding the right book for the right kid and learning why 42 kids took creative writing.

It's the tired of welcoming a student into speech class for the 3rd time and then two class periods later welcoming him to drama.  After five days, it's seeing insecurity in that student you'e never seen before.

It's convincing boys that they can write and then wondering if you'll ever get to peek at the magic being written in a girl's notebook during every break in the action.

It's the tired of planning for the next week and making sure it's rigorous and worthy of their time, but not so difficult that students give up before they start.

It's the tired of wishing you were a month into school and already enjoying those relationships you are busy cultivating now.

It's the tired of a teacher after the first five days of school.




Saturday, August 1, 2015

Celebrating Summer: Part 2

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July.
It's like the fastest month ever. One minute it's the 4th of July, and the next minute you're turning the page to August. Yikes.

20 days until teachers report back.

But who's counting?

The 4th was a quiet one for us this year (and I'm not complaining). We didn't even leave the resort and I loved every minute of it.



We went to several concerts--but a special one was with our son and daughter-in-law. For Father's Day and my husband's birthday they bought him tickets to see The Marshall Tucker Band in a town not far from the lake.  It was also their fifth wedding anniversary, so they went along with us.  It was a great night!


I geared myself up for an event that I had been looking forward to (and been a little anxious about) for over a year.







My 40th high school class reunion--

I don't know why I was anxious--wait! Yes, I do. I hadn't seen these people in 40 years!  But, with some, it was as if we had never left the comfort of school.  I had a smile on my face all night. At times, I would stand off by myself and watch my classmates and think about what amazing people they have all become.








A week or so later found us traveling again, although this time a little closer to home. We again met with our favorite traveling companions and spent a few days in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Although we only live an hour or so away, it's not a place my husband and I have really explored.  Our favorite things a great little retro jazz bar.  It felt like we had stepped back in time.







Our other favorite thing was the riverboat dinner cruise we took.  Good food, great view.










Those were the major events...there was also lake time with kids and grandkids. Great moments with friends. A little quiet alone time. And lots of planning for our next trip

YELLOWSTONE.

Maybe Chloe will have to share some adventures.



Friday, July 31, 2015

Celebrating Summer: Part 1

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I'm back celebrating on Saturdays! You should dust off your blog and join the celebration, too!



I think I've enjoyed this summer more than most in recent memory. I quit telling myself what I should do and just enjoyed things as they happened. It meant less writing, less reading, less online connecting, but I sure have had a good time! I also took LOTS of pictures....

Here's what I celebrated in June...




My first two weeks of summer break found me reading and sleeping, with a little golf thrown in for good measure.  Our sons and their families were frequent visitors, so we got lots of time with the six grandkids.






After a couple of weeks of relaxation, it was time for a little work (and fun). Roomie, ArtTeach and I presented our flipped classrooms at the Iowa Technology conference.  We worried that no one would come. It was standing room only.  We worried we weren't giving people what they wanted. Several stayed after our presentation to ask questions. We need to quit worrying :)








A trip to Door County, Wisconsin highlighted June.  We traveled with my husband's sister and her husband (our Hawaii traveling companions). Our home base was Sturgeon Bay and we explored each day from there.  We visited lighthouses, wineries, restaurants, etc.  So fun!








We did have a severe storm this summer that reminded all of us to be thankful and celebrate each day.  Underneath this huge tree is the remains of our friend's mobile home at the south end of our resort.  Really. There's a mobile home there.  The little green trailer on the left escaped, but the mobile home, a camper in front of it and a car were totaled as a couple of old large cottonwood trees blew over during some 90 mph winds.  The scariest part of this, is it happened early in the morning and people were in those trailers.  Their guardian angels were watching over them and woke them in time to  move before the trees fell. No one was hurt!

So many things to celebrate, Chloe, grandkids, family and friends, concerts, quiet moments, observing nature.....

I'll be back tomorrow with a little about July!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Celebrating The Lazy Days of Summer

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I've been done with school since the 28th of May.

TWO weeks already.

I haven't written
I haven't started planning for next year
I haven't thought about students
I haven't even thought about my presentation at a conference next week (YIKES)
And I really haven't accomplished much of anything.


I've spent them at the lake, surrounded by friends and family, and enjoying every minute of it.


And food, of course, always lots of food


I've taken time to notice the beauty around me


And the ways of nature (who knew turtle could move so fast?)



I've read THREE adult books! I may have to do a little review of two of them, but trust me on Stephen King's new trilogy (Mr. Mercedes and Finder's Keepers are the first two). This is not horror fiction, more detective/crime novels and truly good reads.

And I promised myself all of this on that last day. Because I felt out of BALANCE, you see. Those last weeks of school are crazy and I had to let it take over. It seemed only fair that I let the teeter totter fall to the other side for awhile.

But now I am back. Ready to learn and plan this summer, ready to take off at a moments notice and enjoy myself and my family and friends, ready for anything.

But first, I better take a look at that presentation---we present on Tuesday!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Celebrate the Lake


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This week, I'm celebrating the lake.

My happy place.

I seldom leave school as quickly as I did Friday. My husband couldn't believe it when I pulled in the driveway....and I already had half the car packed since I loaded a few things before school. That of course, got Chloe all worked up. She knew something was going on.




We arrived about 7 and had plenty of time to turn on the water and check for leaks before I went down to the beach to catch my first sunset of the season.

Sunset is almost a sacred time at Sandbar. Most of us stop whatever we are doing and just breathe it in.










Then, it was enough with the chores that could be done later (or even tomorrow), we headed out to find the friends we have missed all winter. We spent a couple of weekends with them since we closed last fall, but it's not the same as just sitting and enjoying each other, even if we don't talk.

As we sat on a friend's deck and watched the last of the sun, I just smiled, thinking how lucky I am to have this.






Saturday was warm, but cloudy. Chloe and I took advantage of the nice morning and walked with a friend up the "lake road" as I call it. It's a beautiful walk along the lake with lots for Chloe to check out. We spent a little time before we headed out watching this guy fish along the shore in front of the cabins.


Our oldest and his family came out during the afternoon (we weren't the only ones anxious for us to open the cabin). It rained off and on, but even that didn't dampen our spirits.  It was good to be together.



All in all, it was a day to celebrate. Chloe agrees!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Celebrating Balance

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This week I'm celebrating FAILURE, of a sort...
  • I didn't finish the March blogging challenge
  • I didn't write a celebration last week
  • I didn't clean my house until yesterday
  • I didn't walk every day
  • I didn't do a lot of things I probably should have
But really. I'm celebrating balance, which of course is my OLW for 2015




I'm celebrating the student I wrote about yesterday. The balance between technology and "old school" is a delicate one. You have to meet students where they are. Once I got him off his computer and just got him to think about his writing, he soared. 







I'm celebrating myself. Learning the difference between the "I really have to have this done tomorrow" and "This isn't a priority and I can do it later".  I'm celebrating myself making time for family and friends and not using school work as an excuse for not getting together and enjoying their company.






I'm celebrating Chloe. Who makes me walk and get outside and enjoy moments of breathing as we head into the last few weeks of school.










I'm celebrating my speech kids, who gave me an amazing day at All-State speech on Monday. A day full of celebrating what we do and how far we have come. And silly reasons to laugh.





I'm celebrating grandkids
and a husband
and friends
all those people who need more me.
Who have gently nudged me into this balancing act.

And I want to share this link to the Huffington Post. Because it reminded me of the BALANCE I need in my life. I love the combination of photos and writing and how they celebrate life.  I think I'm going to try this. Once a week. A picture and some writing. And it might go along with Christy's 30 day challenge (which I haven't started yet, but I'm going to)

And what are you celebrating this week?