Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's All About the Wine

Finishing off a long weekendphoto © 2010 fringley | more info (via: Wylio)
Laughter, sharing, listening, drinking, eating, laughter...and, once in awhile, we talk about books.

Eleven of us started a book club a couple of years ago. Readers, we were always telling each other, "Oh, you should read this."  Wanting to discuss a great find, we searched for someone else who read the same book. Finally, one of us said, "We should start a book club."  And we did.

We meet monthly in a beautiful space on the upper floor of an art/framing store owned by one of our members and her husband. It is the perfect place for a group of women to meet...old brick walls and wooden floors, accented with deep, comfy couches and chairs that we can sink into as we eat, drink, laugh and discuss.

Six of us met after school to discuss Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, the book of the month. Some had read it, some had not. Some liked it, some did not.  That wasn't really the point, we decided. The point was to meet, eat, drink, laugh, and discuss.

And that we did.

We talked about the lockdown drill our school ran earlier in the day and the inservice after lunch. We discussed about how sad one character's life was and how he reminded us of far too many students in our classes. We empathized...

We are also reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin month by month. We talked a lot about her premise that we shouldn't fear failure--or we should have fun with failure--or something like that. We all agreed that is easier said than done. But we understood the concept she was trying to get across.

We all enjoyed the food, drink and company. Meeting with this group of intelligent women soothes my soul. They make me smarter. They make me more compassionate. All too soon it was time for us to head home. Even CInderella had to leave the ball.

As I arrived home to a flooded bathroom and a plumber trying to fix the problem, my husband asked, "So, did you even talk about the book?  Or did you just eat and drink?"

I just smiled. I love a man who gets it...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


"We are now going in to lockdown"

Although it was a drill, although we knew it ahead of time, our first lockdown drill was a tad disconcerting. No one wants to think of a "hostile intruder" in their building, no one wants to think of the consequences of   that intruder. Not me, not the kids.

It was our first drill and on the whole, I think it went OK. Students in later classes told of teachers (?????) who talked the whole time, or students who had to cough or whisper when they were supposed to be quiet,  but on the whole, it went well.

My class was terrific. After a couple of initial giggles, they sat quietly, jumped a bit when someone tried my door, but really did well with the whole thing. This is also the class that came up with great suggestions for improving the drill, who asked intelligent questions, and understood why we were doing this.

I don't want to think about this happening for real, but I am glad we had the drill and there is a plan in place.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Slow down, take time, must breathe.....must teach....

What's on the Book Pile - Magus Booksphoto © 2009 J Brew | more info (via: Wylio)
One of the great benefits of this challenge has been checking out other blogs tucked away on the side of someone's blog, finding new resources in other's blogs.  Spilling Ink is one of those resources. I don't remember whose blog it was on, I just know I was captivated by the title, the website and the idea behind it.

My copy of the book came a couple of days ago and I just started to read it. Now I am in a terrible quandary.  I am also reading Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Fabulous read so far. My problem is this I can't physically read two books at one time. I have no problem with switching back and forth between a fiction and non-fiction book. It's just I can't decide which to read, when!

I can't read one page of Spilling Ink and then one page of Unwind. I can't even read one chapter of one and then one chapter of the other.  I want to know what Conner and the others are doing without me while I am teaching. I can't wait to try the next writing activity that Anne and Ellen have planned for me. What's a woman to do?

If only I didn't have to teach. Then I could read all day and probably finish them both. But then what would I do. I don't have a back-up book right now.  There is nothing in my To-Be-Read pile that I really want to read!!! Nooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Slow down, take time, must breathe.....must teach....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Just For Today

Just for today
I will play
From school.

With 25 students

We will
2 of our own,
Plus 900 others,
Be recognized for

Amazed and Astonished,
I will sit and listen and
As young men and women
That practice and determination
Brings rewards,
But mostly
They bring
Self-Satisfaction and Pride.

Congratulations to Grace and Jordan--All-State Performers!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Silent Cat

Dim light creeps into the room as I silently slide out of the warm comfort of bed into the cool chill of morning.  It is Sunday. A day I relish.

I tiptoe down the stairs and it is quiet, too quiet. Generally an insistent meowing and a lead to her food dish greets me as I open the door. But this morning, nothing. Our 19 year-old cat, Winnie, does not show her face. My mind immediately jumps to the conclusion that she has died during the night.

Reluctantly, I begin my search.

I am not a cat person. Not really. But she has been with us a very long time. Since our youngest son wanted a cat when he was 8.  We relented and got him one, never thinking she would live so long.

Winnie won me over in her early years when we remodeled the house.  The attic was full of bats and as we covered up escape routes, they began appearing in the main part of the house.  She was incredible, once leaping and catching a bat in mid-air as it flew down the stairs (there are witnesses).
Winnie has kept us rodent free since then, although she plays with her "food" and that has led to some memorable moments.

I keep looking through the nooks and crannies of our old house, being sure to check favorite spots.  And there she sits, on the heat vent tucked between the love seat and end table. This is a favorite spot to sit on cold days when Chloe is around. Winnie looks at me, but doesn't meow, doesn't move.

As I finish this piece, she still just sits quietly on the vent, soaking up the heat. She hasn't eaten, hasn't spoken, hasn't moved.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Connecting with the SSBs

photo © 2009 Carolyn Tiry | more info (via: Wylio)
I have always had a soft spot for the "bad boy". You know the one. He causes trouble in class, his grades are poor. He struggles in traditional classes, but excels in hands on activities. By the time he gets to high school, he is afflicted with "Stupid Sophomore Boy Syndrome". Do all sophomore boys have the disease? Nope, just a handful. Although, it can affect any boy at any time.

Having married one of them, raised two of them and taught hundreds of them, I consider myself an authority on "Stupid Sophomore Boy" syndrome.  What is this? It is the time during their fifteenth year that boys leave their brains somewhere and forget to pick them up. In the hallway I am responsible for, there is also a brain sucking locker. Believe it or not, it's always the same number. The brain sucking locker affects those who stand too close, sucking out what common sense a boy has, causing him to say and do really stupid things.

This semester, the core group of the SSB's are out in full force. Luckily, they are split up amongst my three speech classes. And I have found that  separately, they are genuinely nice kids. This is not a new concept for me, just a surprise.

And, they work hard for me.  I don't know how or why, but they like me and my class. As one of them told me yesterday, "This is the only class I really work on.  I actually try." And I can tell.

Maybe they like me because I set the perimeters for the class the first day. They know the consequences from day one. Maybe it's because they have seen me follow through on those consequences, not just with the SSBs, but anyone else in class. They are not singled out. Maybe it's because I joke with them and laugh at some of the things they do. Maybe its because I care and get after them when they tell me about something really stupid they have done outside of class. I won't go into specifics, but trust me--another symptom of SSB syndrome is that  they don't think of consequences!

Maybe they like the class because they get to pick their own topics and be experts at something. Demonstration speeches are my favorite because I get to see what they are passionate about.  I have learned how to dig fence post holes, replace the plastic on dirt bikes, make turkey calls, and play COD (Call of Duty, for those of you out of the loop).  They introduce me to their heros during the Noteworthy Introduction unit.  They create products to sell that fit their lives during the persuasive unit.

I look forward to their creativity and passion for topics I know little about. I enjoy the little moments in my day when I make a connection with one of them. It can be exhausting staying on top of them and making sure the syndrome doesn't rear its ugly head in my room. But in the end, it is worth it.

I guess the point of this is, if you don't take the time to make connections with kids and find out what is important in their lives, they won't care about you and what is important to you. To get respect, give respect.

And the good news is, for most of them, "Stupid Sophomore Boy Syndrome" is not a lifelong affliction. Most of them turn into wonderful men.

Friday, March 25, 2011


There he stood in his uniform, looking like the man, the soldier he had become. Was it only six months ago he sat in my classroom?

I hugged him. I wanted to cry.

Daniel has always been a mature young man, but as he looked around at students, who just last year were his classmates, I'm sure even he had to notice how much he has changed in the time he'd been gone.  Thinner face and tired eyes. Eager to share with me what he had learned over the last few months, wanting to tell me what his future holds, we talked through most of my prep period. He continued to wander in and out of my morning classes, using my room as his landing spot.

It was his first day home on leave.  In two weeks, he'll be gone, guarding "nukes" out west.  I am happy he isn't being deployed to Afghanistan or elsewhere, but wonder just how safe he is.  No one ever told me in my education classes that I would become so attached to students.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why is There a Giant Green Bug in My Hallway?

Students enter speech class with a certain amount of trepidation. Many proclaim they will not be able to speak in front of class.But, they all want to know, when do they get to make the commercial?

5 years ago, this was a simple project. Create a school commercial promoting the high school using the persuasive techniques we learned about in class. Students wrote the script, practiced a day and then they performed their creation live in front of the rest of the class, reading off the script. Somehow, this activity took on a life of its own.

After three days of lecture, the showing of previous commercials and the explanation of three different commercial choices, it now requires at least a week of writing and practicing. Then there is the filming--much of it done outside of class and over a weekend. There are costumes, music, and memorized scenes. I am lucky that my room is the only classroom in my hallway because the kids spread out and practice there. Once students have filmed, many need a day or two to edit their movie. Some do this at home, some do it in imovie here at school. DVDs are made and given to me with the hope that I will show their's to the next class. Several have been uploaded to YouTube.

Why has this happened? Because I love it when students take a simple idea and run with it.  Creative thinkers--the world needs more of them.

Anyone need a remote to pause the world and delete awkward moments? It can be yours for 3 easy payments of $99.99!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Will Continue

saturated writingphoto © 2007 Eduardo | more info (via: Wylio)
After writing a post each day, I click the Twitter and Facebook buttons at the bottom of the post and share the day's writing. I didn't know if anyone would read them, but I figured what the heck.  It turns out, that I have more readers than I knew, although they don't always comment on the blog.  Many times I will find a comment on my Facebook page or someone will comment on something I have written in person. I like it.

Yesterday, my sister actually did comment on one post. I know that she reads "Coffee With Chloe" most mornings and she commented that she would miss reading it once the month was over. I assured her "Coffee With Chloe" would continue. And it will continue for the same reason it started. I need an outlet for my writing. Simple as that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reading Machine

Today is one of those days when I want to snuggle up with a blanket and a good book. If I was still teaching reading in junior high, my lesson plans would change. Today would be a free reading day!  Most kids loved those times.  But, there were always a few.

I always made a promise to kids at the start of the year. Even if they had "never read a book", or never found one they liked, I would find at least one they could say, "Yea, that was pretty good."  This was a tall order for some, but I did usually find one.

Josh was one of those boys. He didn't want to read and didn't like to read. He called me on the promise.  I don't remember if we went through a few books or if "Tears of a Tiger" by Sharon Draper was the first one I pulled, but it was a keeper. Josh moved on to "Forged by Fire", also by Draper, and liked it almost as well.  In fact, he liked these books so well that he didn't really read anything else for a long time! Every year he would come back to my room to borrow one of them to read again.

Last year, Josh was a senior and in my Creative Writing class. He was also taking Individualized Reading and needed more than two books to read for the semester.  Once he had finished Draper's books, he was at a loss.

I pulled "Looking for Alaska" by John Green. He loved it. Josh devoured every John Green book on our shelves.

Stationed in Afghanistan, Josh updates me on Facebook what he is reading in his "free time". His girlfriend messaged me one day asking for book suggestions. And then one day, I received a message that said, "Could you get me copies of the John Green books? I need more to read over here. I have turned into a reading machine! I'll pay you and pick them up when I am home on leave."

It was so good to see him in person when he stopped in my classroom. No longer the kid who sat in my room many mornings serving detention, he was a man now and grateful for the gift of books. How life changes in the course of a few months.

It's funny how this post took on a life of its own. I started to write about my love of reading on rainy days and ended by writing about one of my "Hall of Fame" favorite students. But I'm a little worried. Generally we chat on Facebook about once a week or so and I haven't heard from Josh in a few weeks. Has me a little concerned. I better message him on Facebook...

Monday, March 21, 2011


My day is crazy.
My schedule is crazy.
My Life is crazy.

I want to scream like
Is it time to retire?

Not yet.

School smooths the

Students smile,
Students laugh,
Kids are happy to be in my room.

I breathe.
I am settled.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

He Learned from the Best

There is something very satisfying connecting with adult children. You get a lot smarter the older they get. We stopped to visit and have lunch with our oldest son and his family yesterday. I've been thinking a lot about a comment our son made toward the end of the visit.

Greg thanked Mitch for lunch and complimented him on grilling the hamburgers etc. Mitch replied, "I learned from the best."  But grilling wasn't the only thing he learned...

Mitch was three years old when I met Greg; four when we got married.  Especially when Mitch was a teenager, they didn't always see eye to eye.  Most of their issues were normal father and son problems, but somewhere in the back of his head, Mitch often felt Greg couldn't love him as much as his younger brother.

Flash forward 15 years. Mitch is now the dad to 5-year-old twins. He is not their biological father, but he loves them as if they were.  Two years ago at Christmas, he stopped his dad on the stairs and told him, "Now I get it."

He really did learn from the best.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dance With the Red Dog

Blurry eyed, I sit in my chair and turn on the news. And it starts.

She sits at my feet, giving me puppy dog eyes. I try to ignore her. I read blog comments from yesterday, check my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

A little whine...

I look at her out of the corner of my eye. She stands. The whine gets a little louder. She moves closer to the chair. Soon her head is on my lap, so she can really guilt me with those puppy dog eyes. I can't take it anymore and put my laptop on the end table.

Success! Chloe flies into my lap--all 50 pounds of her. I feel the rocker go back, but right itself again.  She licks my ears and snuggles into my lap. For about 30 seconds....

She's down again.

 I get a fresh cup of coffee and settle back into my chair. Chloe's back. She sits, she whines, but this time she has something with her. She flops her stuffingless weasel into my lap, wanting to play. I pretend I don't notice. She picks it up and gives it a little toss in the air, as if to say, "See how much fun this is!" She nudges it back into my lap. I continue to ignore her.  She leaves.

Just as I pick up the laptop, she's back with her ball. I ignore her. She gives up and just sits and cries at my feet. A little whiny bark. Soon the head is in my lap, big sad eyes looking up at me. I put the laptop down again and up she jumps. This time she settles in for good.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What I've Learned in 54 Years...

Birthday Cake - Candlesphoto © 2008 Jessica Diamond | more info (via: Wylio)

I read someone's blog last week which talked about a writing activity they have students do.  I decided it would make a great birthday post.

"I am young. I am 54 years old and here is what I have learned about life..."

1. Forgive people. Don't hold grudges. It's the strongest thing you can do. People make mistakes. They deserve a second chance--and sometimes a third or fourth.

2. Choose your life. People treat you how you let them.

3. Stupid sophomore boys grow up into fine men--well, most of them. Some stupid sophomore boys stay stupid sophomore boys until they are 40.  See rule number 1.

4. A piece of chocolate a day keeps the grumpies away.

5. A warm bath and an hour alone with a good book is a great way to end the weekend and recharge your soul.

6. Be nice to people. If you have to, bite your tongue 'til it bleeds. You can't take words back.

7. Surround yourself with young people--or the young at heart. They will push you to learn new things just when you want to settle for the old way of doing things.

8. Sometimes you just have to shut your door and teach.

9. If you can't save the world, save one kid.

10. Keep secrets.  When someone says to you, "Please don't tell anyone."  Don't.

11. Fight for what matters. Let the rest go.

12. Find one person with whom you share convictions. And it doesn't have to be your spouse.

13. Don't rely on anyone else for your happiness.  You will make both of you miserable.

13. Don't be your kid's friend when they are young--they need a parent. But, being a friendly parent when they are on their own is a great thing.

14. Spoil your grandkids.  The world won't stop if they stay up late or eat Oreo cookies for breakfast.

15. Make sure you take your grandkids all by yourself once in awhile. You'll be tired when they go home, but it's fun to not worry about what mom or dad might say.

16. Dogs make you exercise.

17. Life's too short to read bad books. Abandon those who don't grab you by the lapels and scream, "Read Me!"

18. Have more than one "best friend". There's too much good about you to be covered by one person.

19. Don't be hurt if your best friend has more than one best friend.

20. Don't blame your parents for your life.  It's your life. Make it what you want.

21. Just because you believe in something, doesn't mean the rest of the world has to believe the same thing. Diversity is a good thing.

22. Fair doesn't mean equal.

23. He who yells the  loudest isn't necessarily right.  They are just loud.

24. You can't control the world, you can only control what you do in the world.

25. Pay no attention to the people who don't matter in your life--but if they matter, pay attention.

26. Do something frequently that you are not very good at. It keeps you humble.

27. Learn new things.

28. Have one CD in your car that you can sing along to and pretend you are a rock star,

29. Cry.

30. Laugh. Laugh really loud. Snort if you have to.

31. A glass of wine and a chair back massager are a wonderful combination some days.

32. Don't worry about how the toilet paper gets put on the roll or how the towels get folded. Just be glad someone besides you does it once in awhile.

33. Call your mom.

34. Tell people when they have done something well, or unexpected, or nice.  Especially students--they need to learn that people notice those things.

35. When you are out in nature, pick up trash. Leave the area a little nicer than when you got there.  The same could be said of the hallways at school.

36. Can't never did anything.

37.No is not a four-letter word. It's OK to use it every now and then. If you find your life overwhelming, you probably haven't said it enough.

38. Label your pictures with who is in it and why they are there. Your grandkids will care when you are gone.

39. Change happens. Deal with it.  You can't stop the wind, but you can learn to surf."

40. Love yourself for who you are, with all your imperfections. Those imperfections aren't really a big deal. And if you don't love you, who else will?

That's it--it's all I've got.  I hoped to get to 54 things, but I've run out of things I've learned. I must have some more growing up to do.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Team Smartacles: Did Anyone Read This?

My second Battle of the Books team is taking their online test tonight.  Made up of three freshman girls, a freshman boy and a junior girl, they are a bizarre group. Two of the freshman girls are great friends who convinced the other two freshman to join them. The junior girl just wanted to be on a team and this was the only team that didn't have six people on it.  They call themselves Team Smartacles.

They haven't met like my other group or any of the other groups.  I'm still not sure that they have all the books read. But tonight they are banding together. They are pumped up and ready to go.

They begin the author's test. The freshman got together today and studied the author's names for that test. In 7 minutes, they breeze through the test. Wisely, they decide to look over all their answers.  In 9 minutes and 54 seconds they click submit. 28 out of 28. Seriously! Amazing! During the whole test the boy is jumping up and down and giving high fives to the girls.  They feel pretty good about their chances.

On to the questions about the books. 28 questions, one for each book.  Before every question someone asks, "Did anyone read this one?"  Sometimes the answer is no and sometimes one person says they did. Now keep in mind, we first met in September and divided up the books amongst them so that every book had at least three people reading it.

They decide to write down any question number they aren't sure of. So far they have written down 1, 2, 3, 4.

Freshman boy turns and says, "Is this one of those things where we can call a friend?"

They begin discussing the questions and rationalizing their way through the answers. This is going to be a long night. Good thing they only have an hour. The board fills with numbers!  8, 10, 11, 14

"It's not your personal opinion!"  15, 19, 21, 22

The junior girl sits and reads the questions off of the smartboard. She is very quiet, always has been. When she knows the answer she gives it, but otherwise she sits quietly.  I'm sure she feels a little out of place. Had I been able to get this group together more, I could have helped them become a team. The freshmen, however, were involved in everything (as freshmen tend to be) and meetings were a problem.

The freshman boy is very proud of the three or four books he has read, but when they get to those books, he's unsure of himself. The girls  talk him through the question until he comes up with an answer. And they put the number on the board.  25, 26

Now they begin clicking backwards and rereading questions to see if the answers will pop magically into their heads.  They aren't changing many, choosing to stay with their first instinct. I'm not sure how that will work for them since they didn't read all of the books, but any strategy is better than no strategy.

The last gets quieter as they think--except for freshman boy. He hasn't been quiet all night.

They click submit.  19 out of 28. They actually tied Team Fluffy who read all the books but one!

"Thanks, Mrs. Day. See you tomorrow." They leave my room, chattering about next year and the books they will read.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This Is Why...

Honestly, I put it out of my mind. I was busy after school, reorganizing my room, straightening my desk and preparing for the fourth quarter. Sunny and fairly warm outside, I hurried to finish everything up so I could go home and take Chloe for a walk.

Chloe greeted me when I walked through the door in her typical fashion--impatient whines, running a small crazy circle, waiting for me to pet her and take down the gate so she could race me to the front door. I stood outside with her a minute while she looped through my legs like a cat, not being able to get enough of my touch.  Finally, I went back into the house to change out of my school clothes and put on some walking clothes.

I putzed around. Fed the cat, filled Chloe's water dish, checked the mail. Eventually, I went into change clothes.

The phone rang and I remembered. It's All-State announcement day! It could only be one person on the other line.

My senior, Grace, who's been with me since she was a freshman, "Mrs. Day!  Congratulations--you have TWO students going to All-State this year!"

"You and Sami?" I ask.

"No. Jordan!!!!!!!!  Can you believe it?"  I couldn't, but that's another story.

For Grace, this was a culminating act. She performed at All-State as a freshman, but did not make it back until this year. She is ecstatic! I really don't have to make any calls because she had made them already. I can see her in my mind's eye dancing around her room, with her phone in her hand, a smile as wide as the ocean.

This is why I coach speech for four months of the year. This is why I read speeches and poetry and prose until my eyes bleed. This is why...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lullaby Weave

Barry Lane has a great activity in his book "But How Do You Teach Writing?" that I love to use with my Creative Writing students. It's called a lullaby weave.  Here's my shot at it, using the song "Puff, the Magic Dragon", one I used to sing with my sons when they were young.

Late on a Friday night
                     A dragon lives forever
One son on each knee
                     But not so little boys
Singing and Rocking
                     Painted wings and giants' string
Cuddling and talking
                     Make way for other toys.
Wishing they could stay this small forever
                     One grey night it happened,
Knowing they won't
                     Jackie Paper came no more
Tucking the memory in my heart
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What I Miss on Sunday Morning

We have had an exceptionally busy winter. There was a spell we were gone 10 or 11 weekends in a row.


I am a homebody in the winter. When we are gone, I feel disconnected. Sunday, for me, is a day to nourish my mind and soul and I don't seem to be able to do that when not in my own space.

I want to wake up on my time--whether that is 6:00am or 9:00 am. I don't want to feel like I have to get up and visit. I want to start my coffee in my kitchen and wash my hair in my bathroom.

I need my fuzzy blanket to wrap around me while I drink coffee and read the Sunday paper--the hard copy, not an online version. There is nothing comfy about reading on the computer. I want Chloe to whine until I put the paper down and call her into my lap for a little cuddle time.

I want to watch HGTV and be inspired.

I want to look at my pile of school work and know that there is a whole day to get through it (although at 8:00pm, I get a little panicked!)

I want to doze in my recliner to a movie. I want that to happen while supper is in the crock pot (or my husband is cooking--either is acceptable).

I need to soak in my nice deep bathtub, filled with wonderful smelling bubbles, a good book and not be interrupted.

I need my home.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Power Speech

The alarm rings at 5:15, but I have actually been awake since 4:30 (that's AM, people). My mind is skimming over all the details for the day, mentally checking off the things I have already done, prioritizing the things that still need to be done and panicking over the things I'm not sure I have done.

It's State Speech Contest day.  The last one of the year (unless someone goes to All-State).  My mind is also thinking "Next week after school..."  I haven't had after school time since November. I'm ready to not worrying about whether someone is waiting to rehearse in the morning. I'm ready to head home at 4:00 instead of 5:30. I think I am ready to be done.

To Be Continued...

After an unusually quiet bus ride (well, except for the game of catch with the "crustable"), we have arrived. It is now 9:00am and the nerves are hitting the morning performers. I spend some time calming nerves and letting students know that no matter what their rating today, I am proud of how far they have come.

Things are calming down as lunch time nears, though I do have a freshman who says she has an upset stomach and is dizzy. I think it's nerves, but I did tell her to lay down and rest a bit. She doesn't perform until 3 and she could really work herself up if she doesn't relax now!

Boy, am I tired. Keeping kids upbeat and ready to perform is always harder work than I think.  Kids are doing well. Many Division 1 ratings, which they are understandably proud of.  It's harder for the kids who are getting Division 2's.  They usually put in as much hard work as the others, but for some reason, the piece and they just didn't click. The kids who always do the best are those who find pieces for themselves, something they connect with.

Thankfully, most centers are running ahead of schedule and all our students have performed. We are just waiting for ballots. So what do crazy speech kids do while they wait?  Play NINJA. Don't ask--I couldn't explain it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Team Fluffy

I sit here monitoring one of my Battle of the Books  teams, made up of six giggling sophomore girls. Five of these girls I recruited as eighth graders when they were in my Gifted and Talented English class. They read ALL the time. One of them generally has two or three going at the same time. And, best of all, they read for fun.

They are smart and well-rounded. One swimmer, one cheerleader, two basketball players, two are on my speech team, one is passionate about wild mustangs, one is a school rebel--kind of. They like each other and are definitely a team, even though they don't always hang out together.

This is their second year together. Last year they scored well, wrote all the author's names correctly and went to the Grand Battle.

They arrive one by one. Laughter and giggles greet each as they arrive. They talk about the ones who aren't here yet.  The designated treat bringer forgot the donuts and there are screams from the rest, "How could you?"

And they giggle.

They miss one of the authors--27 out of 28 because the one at the computer, who always knows the authors doesn't listen when someone thinks a name is spelled wrong.  While it's not bad, they know I expect them to get them all right! A little panic sets in and the leader of the group announces that they now have to get ALL the questions right if they want to move on to the oral round next month.  They argue, they giggle, they move on.

On to the multiple choice questions--one for each book.  Now they try to settle down. The leader stands at the board and writes down the questions they want to go back and review. Another sits at the computer and enters their answers. The other four sit in front of the smartboard. They discuss, they giggle, they move on.

The leader tries to get them to hurry up--

"N., we have fifty four minutes left. Take a pill."

"Who was supposed to read that one?"

"Can we phone a friend?" All six heads turn at once and look at me. since I must be the only one who actually read one of the books. Unfortunately, I can't answer the questions.  They are pretty good at giving themselves a 50/50, though.

They go back to the eight questions they weren't sure of. They discuss, they giggle, they move on.

"Don't second guess yourself"

"Did anyone else read the book, people?"

"Next year we have to prioritize these books."

 Oh, really? It's too bad no one told them that in August!

The night finishes with a huge groan and whine. They didn't do well, and will not move on to the Grand Battle. They exit my room into the dark hallway, making plans for next year.  How I love these girls who read for fun.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Look, Gramma! It's a Princess

Free Child's Eyes and Soft Pink Flowers Creative Commonsphoto © 2007 D. Sharon Pruitt | more info (via: Wylio)

Prom is a month away and the drama has started for real (actually, I think it started back in December) and an overheard conversation brought back this memory of my oldest grand-daughter from a couple of years ago:

I had forgotten how hard taking two small children to the grocery store could be. K decided not to ride in the cart, but "walk" beside me. Now, as anyone with knowledge of 4-year-olds can tell you, they seldom walk. She skipped, she twirled, she slid. At one point she ran ahead of me down the aisle.

And came to a dead stop.

She slowly turned around, her eyes huge, and whispers, "Gramma, it's a princess!"

And sure enough, when I got closer, there stood a princess--pink taffeta dress, ruffles, wrist corsage, tiara, the whole nine yards.

"Where are they going?" K. asked as she watched them leave the store.

"Where do you think?"

"To the ball..."

If only there had been a horse and carriage outside....

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Last (?) Snow Day

Brown grass peeked through in places. The mud and the slush created hazardous walking. Through the downspouts small rivers appeared. Spring was definitely on the way.

Then the dreaded words: Winter Storm Watch. They changed to Winter Weather Advisory.

I turned on the TV this morning just in time to see we were delaying the start of school two-hours. Time for an extra cup of coffee. Time to throw in a load of laundry. Time to correct a few papers.

I am drawn to the TV screen. It's like watching a train wreck. I watch as one by one the neighboring schools are canceling. I know what is coming.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Smiley Face

amazon boxphoto © 2008 hirotomo t | more info (via: Wylio)

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of a little brown box of happiness at my front door steps.  I love finding the Amazon smiley face looking up at me from the step inside my door.  It feels like Christmas  morning when you are a kid.


My book club chose a book at the last "meeting" that I had been looking at anyway. I love that!

And I love my book club. Sometimes I have to skip a month. Sometimes I don't even get the book read, but I go anyway. I still get something out the book just from the discussions. Plus, the wine and treats are always good and the conversations with fellow teachers are revitalizing.


The smiley face box is here a day early!  Must Go!  There's a new friend to meet.

PS. We're reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. Check it out. Promises to be a good one.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Do Not Want to Get Out Bed Today

A real dust bunnyphoto © 2011 Chris Baskind | more info (via: Wylio)

My bed missed me while I was gone.
It gets rumpled when I leave for too long.
I think I'll stay and cuddle it awhile.

The dust bunnies lurk like Lilliputions
Waiting to jump out and frighten me.
I think I'll stay and hide out awhile.

Teacher homework lies waiting in my bag,
Ready to squash any hopes of "me time" this morning.
I think I'll stay and avoid it awhile.

No one made my coffee,
There is snow in the forecast.
My favorite pants are in the wash.
My car needs to be cleaned.
My room is too cold.

The SSB's have had a weekend
To plan for more stupidity.
I think I'll stay....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Morning Snippets

Snippetsphoto © 2009 Bert Heymans | more info (via: Wylio)

1. It's impossible to take a true brain break--at least for me. Even enjoying time with friends, I am thinking of moments to write about. How will I phrase them? Can I make them come alive?

2. Audience matters. Even though I say I am writing this for me, I am constantly thinking how readers will respond.  Comments have become very important to me. They validate what I am doing. The support system I am gaining through this process is wonderful, amazing, and invigorating.

3. Chloe needs a play date.

4. When you are truly comfortable with people, you don't have to talk.

5. I need to use what I am learning about my own writing with my classes. Especially the audience part, the comments and responses. I think it is time for a silent share....

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Brain Break

Chloe is ready for a brain break, too!

It's funny that in the short time I have been involved in this challenge how my brain has changed. I am constantly thinking about things that happen and I how I could write them in a slice. The first thought to pop into my head in the morning as I wake up is, "What will I write about today?"

Today, I really don't have a specific idea, but it's OK. I spent the first hour I was up reading the other early morning posters I have come to know and look forward to reading.

There was Alan and his wonderful post about finding a new book.  I could write about that--I have the same feelings...

And blkdrama who took me to Aruba in one picture. I could write about my longing for summer and my place on the lake....

There was Wanda's post, which asked the question, "When do you write?" I could write pages on that!

And DSmith who wrote a poem. I really should try that!

And my creative writing students who wrote fabulous six word memoirs!

And my friend Tanya who writes a wonderful art blog. How I wish I had her talent

I could go on, but instead, I will write down my ideas and then take a brain break.

I'm going to visit old and very dear friends and I don't want to think about school, or speech contest, or lesson plans, or housework for the next 24 hours. Sunday night will be soon enough.

Enjoy your weekend, new posting friends. I'll read you tomorrow!
Happy Writing!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Six Word Memoirs

On my class blog, "The Day Way" I have been having students comment to posts the last couple of weeks.  Today's post invited them to watch a video of six word memoirs and then write their own.  Check them out. I am pretty impressed.


DSC_9831photo © 2009 D Wallis | more info (via: Wylio)

I hate having confrontations with students, but I won't ignore obvious defiance of rules. I am very clear at the beginning of the semester about rules and the consequences of breaking them. And because I am fair and deal with broken rules on a case by case basis,  I don't usually have any trouble.

Two that I deal with the most are building policies: tardies and cell phones. Cell phones are to be off and out of sight (if they are on silent, I can live with that). You get one "freebie" tardy, after that it's a detention. One half hour. With me.

I have actually formed nice relationships with some former students who habitually broke that rule. It's a nice time to get to know a kid without anyone around.

But the young man yesterday is another story. He's what I call an N.R.A kid--No Rules Apply. When he was tardy a month ago, I reminded him that the next one would result in detention. Yep--he knew. Until yesterday.

When he blew in the room as the bell died down, I simply said, "Second tardy. You owe me a half hour". And the war began--well, at least on his side. He gave millions of reasons why he wasn't tardy, why it was my fault (I made him pick up a bottle that was thrown from his group, which of course, he didn't throw) and why he wasn't serving detention.

I sent him to the hall and explained to the rest of the class the next speech they would be working on. I think I saw relief on the faces of some as they realized I wasn't going to battle with him instead of getting down to the business of school.

Once the rest were started the young man and I walked to the office. We were met by the At-Risk/Ass't Principal. She has been dealing with him since the beginning of the year--and is a friend of the young man's parents and myself. I explained my side and left her to deal with him. I hate "dumping" my problem children on anyone else, but sometimes, there is no other choice.

So this morning, this is bothering me. Was I unfair? Should I extend the tardy zone to outside the room? How am I going to repair the relationship with this young man?  Time will tell.

I hate confrontations with students.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A New Blog for ME!

Although I have my class blog on edublogs  ( ), I wanted a blog for me, a place where I can practice what I teach, a place to put my writing where my mouth is. Coffee With Chloe is that place.

I have been taking part in  Slice of Life Tuesdays at Starting next Tuesday, there is a writing challenge for the month of March. The challenge is to write a slice of life every day of the month. Hope I keep up!

SOLS #3: They Talk to Walls

Beware Touts and Pick-Pockets are operating in this areaphoto © 2009 Ged Carroll | more info (via: Wylio)


One by one they enter our room. I know the seven or eight who are signed up to come. It's the audience I'm unsure of.

It's Speech season...

Crazy, rowdy, Loud speech kids...

Talking to walls, singing random songs, dancing

Teasing, laughing, hugging.

Tonight, they are snitching my Teddy Grahams like Fagin's pickpockets...and giggling.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SOLS #2: You Shook Me All Night Long

It's 7:30am as I walk to my classroom. Many rooms are dark at this time, but if the lights are on, the room is quiet and peaceful. The teacher readies his or her room for the day.

My "roomie", Libby,  and I arrive at the same time today and have about five minutes to talk before the first student walks in the room. It's H., one of Libby's Spanish students in for a little tutoring before she heads off to her college class. Their heads bent over a recent test, Libby gently questions her as to why she chose the answers she did and helps her reason through the other answers until she chooses the right one. H leaves for her college class, feeling pretty good about herself.

As she leaves, in rolls I. a member of my Battle of the Books team. She missed a couple of meetings so she announces that she brought donuts to "suck up a little bit". Soon two more members of the team arrive and the giggling and joking begin.  I's phone rings. "You Shook Me All Night Long" and I think, how appropriate the song is for our room--the room that is never quiet. They soon settle down as I give them the author quiz.

"Where's B?"  they whine, "She's the one who knows all the authors and the spellings." A quick text to her with the promise of a donut... B and D come in close together and the wondering where J is begins.  They finish the test, the 8:05 bells rings, a quick decision on when to take the "Battle" test and off they go to their first hour class.....

I love the chaos. I love that kids feel comfortable here. I love teaching.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Puppy Kisses

Life in northeast Iowa can be treacherous in the winter.  Snow begins to melt and changes to ice. You have to be careful. You have to watch where you are walking. It used to be that my winter walking was limited to the treadmill. However, the addition of a beautiful Goldendoodle puppy to our home last summer has changed my winter walking habits. Unless the wind chills are deeply below zero, we walk.

Yesterday, home at a much earlier time from school than I have been for awhile, I decided Chloe and I would venture out. She jumps up, down and around when she sees me put on my "dog walking" coat. We started on the sidewalks, but many of them were still snowy from Saturday night's snowfall, so we moved to the street.  The streets were mostly snow free...

Chloe loves our walks. She prances ahead of me like a Budweiser Clydesdale.  Looking all around, sniffing for whatever walked before us, she keeps a steady pace, but not one I can't keep up with. Me? I'm just enjoying the fresh air and the free time....

We make our turn for home.

I'm not paying as much attention as I should.

Suddenly, I feel my right heel start to slide out from under me. Chloe must have felt it too, because she stopped directly in front of me, looking up as if asking, "What's going on? Can I help?" A stopped dog, a sliding foot, combined for disaster.

I felt myself flying over the dog. My knees landed first, the my face planted in the icy snow bank on the edge of the street, my rear end stuck up and facing the street. Two thoughts in my head. 

"I hope I didn't break my glasses."  And

"Please, don't let anybody be looking out their window right now!"

Puppy kisses greet me as I slowly push myself up and out of the bank. Everything seems to work. The glasses are in one piece and there is no one outside with a video camera. 

We continue trudging toward home...

3/17 I'm So Lucky

  I'm so lucky to have a birthday on St. Patrick's Day☘️ Everyone likes to celebrate my birthday (even if they don't like green ...