Friday, October 28, 2011

From Her Perspective

This summer I attended a class called "Re-writing From The Margins" with Anne Marie Ekland Russell at Holden Village. Here is what I wrote based on Mark 5.21-43.

I woke up from my nap and there were strangers in my room. It was so weird - especially because they were men! What were my parents thinking to allow (invite?) four strange men into my room? They know I am of age as they have been discussing my approaching betrothal. Are they crazy?

I started to wonder if I was still asleep. It must be a dream as one of them tells me to wake up. Even more bizarre is that I do, without any hesitation! His voice has both comfort and authority in it.

My parents stood there with their mouths hanging open. Then this guy, (I later find out his name is Jesus) tells everyone - with that same authority in his voice - to keep this a secret.

What is so secret? What were they doing while I slept that must be hushed? At least he became practical and ordered my parents to feed me. Good thing too as I was famished.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reading in Jeddah will never be the same


I love to read. Curling up with a good book is a fabulous way to spend
a few minutes, an hour, or an entire evening. (I have a two year old – entire days are not an option.) A good read becomes a
great read if you have not only a fabulous book, but a comfortable place to read.

The availability of books overseas can be a challenge. I have plenty of YA books to read as I try to keep up with books for my students. Both my classroom library and the school’s library provide opportunity to read. Books I would share in book club, if I were in the States, have been harder to come by. The school library does order some new titles every year, but only a few and only once a year. There is a pretty decent bookstore, but prices are inflated and often what I want is not available. Yes, I could order from Amazon and have it shipped, but I find it hard to choke down the price of shipping.

When I am in the States I am a happy public library patron. I add things to my hold list throughout the year. I then release some books from their frozen hold status a few days before I arrive in the States so I have the first few titles waiting for me when I arrive. I miss my public library when I am overseas. You can then understand that the idea of being able to check out library books to my Kindle was very exciting. I welcomed the news with optimism because usually these things don’t work when originated overseas. I was ecstatic to find out that the usual is not the case this time. I have access to my public library with holds and a wish list and chances to read. Ah, for those moments and hours and evenings to be filled with fabulous reads.

We now come to the part about wanting a comfortable place to read. Curling up in bed is nice. The best natural light in our house is on the daybed in my daughter’s room, but that doesn’t work when she is sleep, which is my best opportunity. Sometime I will put pillows on the landing of our stairs. This way I avoid the AC and have decent natural light. The downside is the floor, though carpeted, is still pretty hard. Our couches don’t really fit me. I try to modify with pillows, but being a smaller person it is hard to find a really comfortable place to sit. I am thrilled to say it is no longer a challenge for me at our Jeddah house! My husband bought me a little recliner that fits me perfectly! We now own two, one at each house. His is so big I can’t get out of it without crawling over the side. Mine is so small his head and legs don’t even come close to touching the chair. Someday we may have side-by-side recliners, but for now reading in Jeddah will never be the same. (At least for me.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Inspired by “Packet of Letters” by Louise Bogan

You said you would always keep them.
Do you still have them?
Are they with you
     or in storage?
Have you ever re-read them?

Those letters were when I first thought of myself as a writer.
Would reading them now do any good
     or is the memory of becoming a writer enough?

I have yours.
They are all nestled together in a box in the garage.
Would their co-mingling tell a complete story?
I don’t think so.
In our hearts
     and our memories
Our fading memories hold the story.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reading Logs Be Gone


I love books and discussions that get me thinking. I naturally reflect on my own teaching practice and I’m happy to ponder why something should or shouldn’t be done and what is ‘best practice’. Reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller brought up ponderings for me about my literacy choices, most pointedly when it came to the idea of reading logs.

Last year I had an evolution of reading logs. I moved from using a paper version to an e-version. I made this switch for a few reasons.
Why kill trees?
I had Googlified my class and using a Google Form was an easy alternative.
I hope to get to teach 1:1 some day and in preparation for that dreamt eventuality I look for what I would change.
All of these led me to utilizing e-logs.

This fall has brought a further evolution to my thinking and practice. In her book, Donalyn Miller questions the purpose of reading logs. Yipee! A chance to ponder and reflect!
Is the point to have homework?
To make students read?
To be an authentic record of reading?
Hopefully we are looking for the latter, but probably with a dash of ‘let’s make sure they are reading’, but does it work? I know I have students who fill out their log all at once, sometimes even in the hall as it is due.

So, does a reading log actually serve as an authentic tool? Is it something you use as a reader? I don’t. I do not keep track of the number of pages I read each day nor the minutes read. I do keep track of books I’ve read and so do my students. Why would I ask them to do something different then what I find helpful as a reader? So I threw them out, both on paper and virtually.

I had a very frank conversation with my students about their reading and their logs. I told them that I required a reading log for the first month of school as a way to help them establish good reading habits at home. They told me how and when they were filling out their logs. The logs, for most of them, were an artificial record and not a motivator of reading. We realized that we all read because they want to know what happens next, not because of a log that is supposed to be filled in. I made a deal with my students. If they promise to read every night I promise to not give them busy work or an artificial assessment. I also made the logs available to those couple of students who do find the accountability helpful. I also emailed the parents to let them know of the change and the reasons behind it. I now have a room full of happy readers and no reading logs.

Friday, October 14, 2011

We Had the Run of the Place

Second grade - Mrs. Hale's class. I know, for sure, it was second grade because it was Mrs. Hale's class, but looking back I often think "Really? She really let 2nd graders have the run of the place?" We did have the run of the place.

I remember being given the opportunity, often, to work on projects, sometimes during recess. (And I don't remember Mrs. Hale staying in the room.) This was one of those lunch recess projects.

I have no recollection why, but we were painting on a long piece of white butcher paper, perhaps eight feet long. We had mixed the powder we needed for each color of paint in large glass jars. I remember the blue Miracle Whip lid.

There were seven of us; Amy, Christina, Jenny, Jodi, Jessie, JennieVen, and myself. We had been painting and talking and laughing - enjoying one another and accomplishing our task (whatever that was). When we had finished, and it was time to clean up, we all pitched in.

Someone rinsed out the paint brushes. A couple of people moved our completed work out of the walkway. I picked up the green paint by the Miracle Whip lid. You guessed it - the lid was not on firmly. The moment froze around us as green paint slammed onto the floor and splashed upon items in an irregular radius.

Do you remember the "Free to Be You and Me" song about 'some kind of help is the kind of help we all could do without'? In my mind the words are written in green paint.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What’s the definition of teaching?

Redundant? Worthless? Slacking? Decoration? Unnecessary? Lazy?

These are the descriptors going through my mind as I walk around my room and find myself with nearly nothing to do.

All of my students are actively engaged with their group. Each person is learning, discovering, sharing, questioning, and recording. Fabulous – right? Then why do I feel like I’m not teaching?

Once I shake off my sense of uselessness I appreciate the inquiry process that is taking place before me. They are discovering meaning, assimilating information, and applying it to their worlds.

What is the definition of teaching?
Today I am a facilitator. A guide. An encourager of learning.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bike Crash

I am such a big girl
I can ride a two wheeler

Big, open, flat parking lot
No problem
Steep road behind our house
Sure, you bet!

I didn’t know about gravel
Gravel can make you lose control
Next thing I know I am under my bike
and bleeding

(memories from age 7)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Verdict Is in

sols_greenWe are 3.5 weeks into the school year and I am willing to say out loud that 'what you see is what you get'. In this case it is a good thing. I am starting to allow myself to get excited about the year. This group of kids is respectful and engaged. They are willing to work with whatever partner or group they are placed with. The quality of work is better than acceptable. And, with the exception of my special needs students, no one is more than a grade level behind (as opposed to three or four grade levels in the past couple of years).

In addition to this being a promising group of students I am having a great start myself. This is the first time I am teaching the same grade level two years in a row, at the same school, without being really sick. (I was 'all day sick' for almost my entire pregnancy.) So I am able to fine tune some of the things I do and the way I do them. For example, a project I have used many times I finally got completely written out, step by step with entire rubrics. No shock that this clarified the expectations and big surprise, the quality of work went up! (I know that ideally we do this before all assignments, but my reality is that there are so many hours and when something has to get left behind I don't get these things written out completely.)

So the jury has voted and a promising year is in the making.