Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Things That Made Me Smile

I read a blog post today that gave some great ideas for activities in writer's notebooks. Since we are really just getting a start on ours, I thought we would try some of these this week. I apologize I'm not linking to the post. I found it on Twitter at home this morning, but when I come to school and the link is blocked by our AEA's firewall.  Grrrrrrr.

But that's another blog post.

Here's what we added to our notebooks today:


1. Chloe swimming in the lake for the first time. Like a kid, she dipped her toes in the water, testing it out. Then a wave came at her and she decided it needed to be attacked. Chloe spent several minutes trying to catch the waves and eat them. Slowly she started walking out and then finally swam. When she got out of the water, she shook off and then ran around in circles like crazy.

2. The grandkids swimming on the 4th. Grandma's lake rule: You have to eat breakfast before you go outside. I think they broke the land speed record in downing those bowls of cereal. Clothes were never an issue. They just put the suits and life jackets on and down they went. Luckily, the beach is right across from the trailer so the adults could sit and have coffee and watch them. Every two hours or so we brought them up for a sunscreen and a snack. As the sunset, we made them come up and get ready for bed. There were no arguments!

3. The look on a friend's face when I showed up at the hospital before her surgery. She didn't know I was coming, but the look on her face when I walked up as she was standing in line to register was worth the early morning drive. Even better, the look on her face when she got to go home.

4. My new golf clubs and golfing with friends. Now, you need to know that I suck at golf. Really. But I look great on the course with my new clubs.  And I have fun. I enjoy being with my friends, so it's all OK.

5. Concerts at Arnold's Park. We have our favorite bands that are don't miss events and we've checked out some new ones. It's always a fun night dancing and singing along.  Good times.

6. The lake neighbor kids coming to pet Chloe in the mornings. They were all a little nervous at the beginning of the summer because she was sooo much bigger than last summer. But once I showed them how to approach her and convinced them that she just wanted to give them puppy kisses, they were hooked. Now they stop many times during the day when I am out just to see Chloe.  I love their giggles as she licks them all over.

Other things that made me smile:
The boat dying in the middle of the lake and being towed in by a smaller boat.
Being home
Pajama days
Rainy days
Sunny days
Making sangria
The lake neighbors setting up a screen and projecting fights outside--just like a drive-in
School starting

Yep--lots to smile about. And lots to write about!  I hope my students find their lists as helpful as I find mine

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anatomy of an Author-to-Be

Hair in her eyes, glasses perched on the end of her nose, ill-fitting clothes and a perpetual smile,  appearance doesn't seem to matter to Allie, who long ago decided she was going to be an author--not a writer, an author. She walks down the street today with her nose in a book and I wonder how she walks and reads without running into a tree or falling over the cracks in the sidewalk.  When I tell her that later, she giggles and tells me it has happened before.

I see her sitting in class, alone, reading whatever book she is reading at the moment. She was on a steady diet of R. L. Stine when I first met her as a seventh grader. I was bound and determined to get her to read something else. Allie was just as bound and determined to read what she wanted, no matter what I, or anyone else, had to say about it. Today, she still loves her teenage horror novels or once in awhile a love story, but you still aren't going to get her to read anything but what she wants.

When I happen upon her at lunch, it is often with a notebook and pen in hand. Not a diary keeper, she is constantly scribbling in them, usually another chapter in another novel she is writing. I wish I was as prolific as she. Constantly on the lookout for new readers for her work, she needs fresh eyes to appreciate and marvel at what she has written.

One day, I imagine, she will finally publish her first novel.  She will still have her bangs hanging in her eyes. She'll still have to push her glasses up from the end of her nose. Clothes still won't mean a thing to her. She will tell the world that all she ever wanted in life was to be an author.  She will go on and on about all the writing and reading she did to prepare for the day her first book was published.

And I will be proud to say, I knew her along the way.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Flying Book Kids

Last Friday I wrote about how the books flew(literally) into the hands of some of my students. As an English department we talked about making sure kids have independent books to read in class and how to make sure they get some reading time every week, so that was the reason for the flying books. The kids needed them for class. I often wondered over the weekend if any of them even looked at the book or if this was just crazy Mrs. Day trying to get kids to read again. Even though I knew I had found good books for them, I worried they wouldn't give the books a chance (Coincidently, I started reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn MIller over the weekend. It's scary how alike she and I are.)

Fast forward to Monday.

One came in carrying Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper.  "20 pages, Mrs. Day. Good Book."

The wrestler came in carrying Four Days to Glory by Mark Kreidler, a book about the state wrestling tournament here in Iowa.   He didn't comment. HE SAT DOWN AND READ!!!!! And he read every time there was a break in the action!  I didn't have the heart to tell him to put his book away (He did tell me after class that I was right, the book was really good).

In every class, students came in carrying books.  Only one came up to me and asked if she had to finish the book she picked out or if she could get a different one.  "Life's too short to read bad books," I told her. And then I asked if she needed help finding a new one.

"Nope," she replied. "I know the one I want."

So, I feel the flying books were a success. Books are in the hands of students and they are being read because the students made the choice.

I feel validated.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Last week I read a blog post by Angela Maiers that made me sad (and her too!). She described a conversation with her children after their first day of school.  What did her kids tell her about their first day?


Now I know that many kids say school is boring and that many teachers say they aren't there to entertain kids.


It was the fact that none of her children's teachers expressed any excitement, enthusiasm or passion for the coming year that bothered Angela--and me!

And then, before school this morning, I took Chloe out in the yard for a few minutes before I left for school. She played fetch with me a few minutes, but then she took matters into her own paws.  She picked up her leash in her mouth and began to run.

Chloe loves to run and I love to watch her run. She does it with such enthusiasm and joy. She runs for the love of running. And this got me thinking too.

I teach for the love of teaching. Really. I could and have taught many subjects (including 8th grade math, but that's a story for another day), but do I teach with enthusiasm and joy?

I try, but I don't know that I always succeed.

And so that is why my word for the week is ENTHUSIASM.

Let me share my enthusiasm for the spoken and written word with my students and those around me.

Starting now!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Outlaws

Last night I went to a free concert in Arnold's Park with my husband and a friend.  They are both music lover's (not that I don't like music, but not like these guys!) and my husband, especially, had been looking forward to hearing the opening band, The Outlaws.  I had never heard of them. Evidently they were around back in the 70's.  It also happened to be the Polaris Victory Rally.

 A motorcycle rally.
Motorcycles--something I will never understand.

But it was a great night for people watching. I didn't take my writer's notebook with me, but I sure filled it in with details when I got home!

Anyway, this poem comes from that experience.

'old_hippy' photo (c) 2010, eric wittman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/The Outlaws

Long-Haired hippies.
Faces lined with the
Evidence of hard living.
Trying to recapture
What it was like to be
Seventeen again.
Or twenty-one.
Or young.
Dancing in place
To music that resonates with them.
They feel it
Loud and pounding,
Vibrating the ground,
Crashing right to their soul.

And for an hour they are
Young again
With plans to take on the world.

Like all of us.

Do they still have those dreams?
Do they still have those ideals?
Do they still have the reckless abandon
That stereotyped them?

Are they part of the mainstream
In their everyday life?
Regretting choices not made.

Long-Haired hippies
Trying to recapture
Their Youth.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Weekend Morning

It's been a week of
     alarms going off
     being on time
     get to the next meeting
     finding packed away items
     teacher chatter
     teenage laughter and
     high fives
Always moving on to
     the next thing
Always noise.
Always in a hurry.

But then comes
Puppy kisses and
Bird songs
Wake me slowly to the day.
The coffee perks and
I know
There is plenty of time for a leisurely cup
With a piece of fresh peach pie.

Neighbors wave as they head to their boats.  

And the only noises I hear are
The sound of
The waves
Gently lapping at the sand
And the call of a solitary gull.
Only the swallows don't  understand
The need for
Peaceful weekend mornings.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Flying Books

High school kids always say they hate to read--especially the boys. They proudly proclaim that they never read. Haven't read a book since 6th grade. They just watch the movie and fake it.  Lots and lots of excuses. I, of course, find it amazing that they have never read a book that they liked. Too many teacher choices, I guess.

My second hour speech class is filled with those kids. I told them they had never read a book they liked because I was never their reading teacher. I said if they would be honest about it, I could find them books that would interest them.

The challenge was on.

"Find me one, Mrs. Day!"

"Me next!"

Me, Me, Me....

I started pulling down boxes and throwing out books.  Literally. (It's kind of fun to amaze them when the book actually lands on their desk.).

Five boys and a girl took books with them as they left today.  Alliterate, nonreaders. Kids who may actually try to read a book because I found books that interested them.

I'll have to check back in with them next week.

Hope it works!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Let It Be Me

'Free Sad Dirty Abandoned Child Creative Commons' photo (c) 2009, D. Sharon Pruitt - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I saw her name on my class list.  It was one of "those" names. All teachers knew the family and the background.  I remembered her mom in seventh grade.

I watched her in the halls during freshman open house as she wandered without friends from room to room, accompanied only by her step-father, himself from one of "those" families. Fearful, she figured out where she needed to go each hour. What a contrast to most of the other kids who laughed and greeted friends as they danced from room to room.

I greeted the two of them as they stepped into my room. A dirty face, unkept hair, clothes that had seen their better days, it was hard to imagine she was a freshman girl. The only words she spoke were, "I'm scared to come here."

My heart broke. Tears filled my eyes.

Let it be me. Let me be the teacher that makes school a safe place for her. Let me be the teacher she connects with. Let me be the teacher that makes a difference in her life.

Let it be me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


The Good Kind.
The kind of exhaustion
That lets you know
Your brain hasn't turned to
The long, hot summer.

The Good Kind.

Monday, August 15, 2011

My New Year's Resolutions

'Happy New Year 2011 - Feliz Ano Novo - Buon Anno - Feliz Año Nuevo - Glückliches neues Jahr -' photo (c) 2011, Hartwig HKD - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/I love the start of a new school year!  I'm already anticipating not sleeping well because I can't wait for  Thursday when the kids start! New notebooks, new pens, new classes, new students, new resolutions!  It's a clean slate. No matter how last year went, it's a chance to make the coming year spectacular!

This year I resolve to:

1. Really use the technology I discovered in my Web 2.0 class earlier in the summer. I have a tendency to learn about new technology, but then let it drop as the year passes. I found several web sites that my creative writing students could use to write children's books.  Also, found some great sites that would make my classroom more interactive.  I need to consciously add these tools to my lessons!

2. Read more professional books.  I didn't read much professionally last year, and I found myself getting burnt out much earlier in the spring.  Professional reading keeps me excited. It empowers me to better myself and my classroom. I need to keep a "to be read" list of professional books for the year.  The first two on my list are The Book Whisperer and 14 Things Great Teachers Do.

3. I will be an active learner. I have a great PLN started, not only with people in my district, but also with new friends in the blogging and Twitter world. I must take advantage of all that knowledge!

Two quotes will also guide my teaching this year. Attributed to Buddha, the first is Life is so very difficult. How can we be anything but kind?  Students, teachers, janitors, administration. It doesn't matter?  Everyone has things going on in their lives that affects their daily attitude.  Things that affect how they deal with others. My attitude needs to be kind. Attitude is everything.

The other quote that I have been using as a mantra this summer and will continue to use throughout the year, You must be the change you want to see in the world. Mahatma Ghandi.  Students began using this at the end of last year when confronted by actions from their classmates that they didn't like. I think as adults we also need to constantly be the change. Instead of sitting in the lounge complaining, I must find a way to change what I don't like. 

So, there is it. Short, but meaningful for me. Things to think about. 

Happy School Year!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

All Summer in a Week

It's the last week of summer vacation and while I should be at home, traveling to school for a bit every day to work on "school stuff", I am at the lake trying to cram every last bit of summer in that I can. Why? I don't know. We'll continue to come to the trailer every weekend until mid October.  But the season is winding down ( insert sad face).

We spent a lot of time outside, just enjoying the beautiful weather we have been graced with this week. After 27 days of above normal temperatures (many days of heat indexes about 100), this feels heavenly!  As the adults just sat and relaxed the kids had many adventures.  One thing I truly appreciate about our grandkids is the fact that they don't need a lot of toys to be entertained, nor do they need adults to entertain them. Especially at the lake, they find plenty to do.  Their imaginations and a few props are all they need.  Here they are, traveling by boat to some far off place.

We also took a day and did some "touristy" activities.  We played mini-golf at a course with a Wizard of Oz theme. It wasn't busy while we were there, so the kids could run ahead and play holes without us and then run back and play with us.

We also went to the amusement park--not to ride the rides, but to play in the park within it.  Kids choice.  There are lots of climbing toys, slides and sand to keep them amused.  It's one of their favorite places to go!

And, of course, no outing is complete without stopping for ice cream!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

All I Learned About Teaching I Learned From My Grandkids

There's six of 'em, you know.  Ages 6 to 3 1/2 months. That's a lot of learning going on when you get them all together. And I realized that they are teaching me many things that apply to my classroom (even though I teach high school kids).

Here's what I know:
1. When you are truly scared of something. but confront it anyway, that's real courage. Doesn't matter if it is bugs or deep water or new situations. Just gotta do it.  I need to think about this with new speech classes. Giving speeches is hard stuff--especially for some.  I must make sure kids know I respect them for trying something new and scary.

2. Sometimes, if you want to make a new friend, you have to make the first move!  

3. If you always take no for an answer, you never get to try or learn anything new.  I watched Max today go back to the same cord time after time, even though I kept saying no and taking it away from him.  I know he's exploring his world and that's never a bad thing. My kids at school are exploring in their own way, and I need to remember that!

4. Sometimes you have to make a little noise to get any attention! Babies Hayden and Max have this down to a science. They are happy babies who don't fuss a lot, but when they need something, they make sure everyone knows.  This applies to school in so many ways---don't like how things are being done? Make a little noise. Kids need an adult to notice them? Make a little noise. I need to look at the noisemakers and see if their needs are being met. And sometimes, I need to make a little noise of my own.

5. Think of new ways inside the box. I know this sounds contradictory, but stay with me for a moment.
Babies, especially, don't need toys. They need to explore. Pots and pans. Spoons. Fuzzy slippers. All of these provide entertainment for a baby. Give older kids a bunch of toys and they play with the boxes. Houses. Castles. Rocket ships. Imagination rules. What this says to me is to give my students the idea and let them run. Just because I envisioned it one way, doesn't have to be the way it turns out.

6. Passion changes, but it's always a good thing. Tony LOVES sports--anything that involves a ball. His first words to me in the morning are "Can I play golf?"  It's his passion right now. In the fall, it will be football. In the winter, basketball.  They all have their own passions, and as adults, we try to accommodate them.  School is the same way. Give kids choices as much as possible and help them find their passion. HINT:  It probably isn't school.

Monday, August 8, 2011

No Wussie Girls

'B'Day Cake for two little girls' photo (c) 2008, Kim Hyeyoung - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Girls,
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post for your brothers with all the things I hope and wish for them--things Grandma thought it was important for them to know. After reading teacherdance's blog the other day, I decided I'd better get one written for you girls too!

1. Learn some basic car maintenance--or at least know the name of one really good mechanic who won't cheat you just because you are a woman.

2. It's fun to pretend to be a princess, but in the real world, women need to take care of themselves.

3. Boys make great friends, NOT just boyfriends.

4. It's nice to have a man in your life, but don't let them become a necessity. Be with someone because you want to be, not because you have to be.

5. Bugs are not scary creatures and the ones around here won't kill you!  Step on that spider for heavens sakes!

6. Be nice to people, including yourself.  Always make time for you.

7. Stand up for yourself and others. If you know something is wrong, don't put up with it. Deal with it.

8. Learn to cook.

9. Try new things. Sitting back and watching others have fun is not fun for you.

10. Dance, even if you're not very good at it!

11. Laugh every day and surround yourself with people who make you laugh.

12. Find something you are passionate about and make it an important part of your life.

13. Read!  Grandma can't wait to introduce you to some more of her favorite characters.

14. Stay active. And try something besides cheerleading!

15. Remember, parents make mistakes, but they always make them because they love you. (Grandma, however, is always right)

16. When dad says he won't let you date until you are 30, call Grandma. I'll straighten him out.

17. And remember what Grandma always tells you, "No wussie girls!"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Just One of Those Days

Today was just one of those days.

I didn't wake up until 8:00am. Unusual for me, even at the lake. More unusual was the fact that Chloe just crawled up on the edge of the bed and slept too.  I think I got too much sleep. I didn't have any energy today. Nada. Zip. Nothing.

Here's what I didn't do:
Read--anything. Usually Tuesday mornings I read blog posts until my eyes bleed. Not today. Only read two or three at the most.  I also didn't read for fun or for PD. Only checked my email once and Facebook twice. Nothing seemed to catch my interest.

Write--I did make a four item grocery list, but even that took more energy than I could muster. Here it is, 8:00pm and I am just getting around to posting on my blog and at Two Writing Teachers.  So not like me...

Paint--I planned on painting a coat of primer in the trailer addition today.  But, nope, that didn't get done either. I did move the paint can from the floor to the table, though.

Walk--Chloe and I have been walking every morning when we get up. I'd like to blame not walking on her, but I have a feeling she'd argue with me if she could!

What did I do?  Hmmmm.

I did make it to the grocery store to buy cat litter. But I didn't get the litter box changed.

I did sit and stare at the lake for awhile this morning.

I took a two hour nap.

Don't know what was up today, but sure hope it doesn't continue tomorrow!

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 ...