Monday, March 20, 2017

This Time I Did Forget

I didn't write a Slice yesterday.  By the time I realized it, I was already in bed and it was after 10pm.  At that point, I was foggy, unwilling to get out of bed to head downstairs to write.  I felt bad that I had let myself down, but I also knew that if I didn't get to sleep, I would be mad at myself in the morning.

So here I am, picking up where I left off on Saturday.  Thinking about the day that was and the evening to come.  Considering how I'm going to stay awake to score the math tests that I'm sure will reveal my students weren't really ready for. Wondering how I'm going to make it to Friday and Spring Break.

Slowly but surely, this week will unfold.  I have a feeling I'm going to have to really search to find the inspiration to write.

Funny how breaking a streak can really bum me out.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Almost forgot!

Today was a mishmash kind of day.  I had a meeting to attend this morning, then this afternoon the whole family headed out to Old Orchard mall to get shoes for Dan and the girls.  We did some shopping, had an early dinner and then came home.  Since I bought tickets for the girls and me to see Beauty & the Beast tomorrow morning, Dan and I did the grocery shopping this evening.

This change to my weekend schedule threw me off a bit.  I almost forgot to write my post!

There was a time when I loved to go shopping.  I could spend hours wandering in and out of stores at the mall, browsing, maybe buying something I didn't really need, maybe not.  Lately, though, I've HATED shopping in an actual mall.  The girls are not fans of shopping, either.  I have to say, though, it was kind of pleasant this afternoon.

We started at the Vans store (of course... those are pretty much the only shoes Dan, Abby, and Molly will wear right now), hit Macy's for a couple of things, and ended up at Barnes & Noble.  I nearly fainted when Abby asked me if she could buy a book she's "already read but wants to read over and over again."  This, from the kid who doesn't really read!  Of course I'm going to buy her that book (You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan), only not from B & N, since they didn't have it in stock.

I think dinner at Shake Shack was my favorite part of the day, though.  Both girls were in great moods, and we laughed and talked and generally enjoyed being together. Now we're back home, Dan and I are hanging on the couch and the girls have retreated to their rooms.

Back to a typical Saturday night.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Little Validation

We just finished our winter benchmarking in my school district.  I can't say I really enjoy doing these assessments, since they take instructional time away from my math and literacy classes, but I do think about the information I get from these assessments and consider what they say about my students' growth and my own instruction.

I don't rely only on the numbers from the benchmarking; I know kids are more than numbers.  I value the information I gather in my classroom every day - the authentic assessment I get from talking to kids about their thinking in literacy and in math, looking at student work, and standing back and observing the interactions and work habits of the 18 young learners who cross my path daily.

The numbers, though, provide validation.  They reinforce that something's going right in room 301.

When I sit back and think, I know that these are the things that are right:

  • My students read - A LOT.  Kids who at the beginning of the year did not identify themselves as readers are now begging for more time to read throughout the day.  They have too many books for their book bins, so books are often stacked on top of their desks, so they always have the next book ready (they might have noticed the stacks of books on my desk and filing cabinet).
  • My students read widely.  At the beginning of the year, most of the kids were gravitating to my graphic novel collection.  Dogman was popular, so were the Amulet books.  Raina Telgemeier's graphic novels (including the graphic versions of The Babysitter's Club novels) got passed from hand to hand.  Then they moved on to Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Tom Angleberger's Origami Yoda series.  Now about half of them are reading their way through the Harry Potter series and a few have started on Percy Jackson.  I have one girl who has read Wendy Mass's entire collection for middle graders and is now on to Sharon Draper's middle grade books and Linda Mullaly Hunt.
  • My students read what they want.  Students will often ask me to help them book shop.  They know I love books more than just about anything else.  I never tell them what to read.  Instead, I ask them questions about what they're in the mood for and what kind of book they want.  Then, I pull a stack of books from the baskets and bins and we talk.  Most of the time, the kids will take three or four back to their reading spots and they choose from there.  They also ask each other.  I love hearing kids talking by the library bookshelves, making suggestions for their friends.
  • My students don't do worksheets.  We talk about books.  They share their thinking about the books they read with me in conferences and in their weekly "write long" assignment.  I know they are growing as readers by seeing how their writing and talking about reading has changed since September.  
  • My students write.  At any given time, I have students writing a variety of different things outside of our genre studies. Kids are writing collaborative stories in GoogleDocs.  Students are writing graphic novels. Students are researching and writing informational books on their own.  I have two girls who have a "business" (their word - no money changes hands) called Tiny Stories by Michelle and Morgan; they write short stories for other kids in the class who commission them.  They have a checklist of themes they write around.  It's the cutest!
  • My students see the connection between reading and writing.  They know that if they want to know how to do something as a writer, the answer lives in our classroom library.  They have seen me go back into a favorite text to see how an author wrote a sentence or described a character and then try it out in my own writing.  They do this as well.  
I don't take full credit for these things.  I'm lucky to work in a school district that shares my vision for what a literacy block should look like.  These kids come to me having been exposed to the workshop model since kindergarten; many were good readers and decent writers when they walked into my room.

I do, however, think that my passion for words and books has permeated my classroom.  The kids know I see them as readers and authors, and they have come to see themselves that way as well.  They know words matter and that books are windows and mirrors that can help us learn to live our best lives.

Now... if only I could get this passionate about math!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Running on Fumes

I wrote sub plans tonight for the second time this week.  On Tuesday, I had two different meetings.  Tomorrow I have another.  Since returning to the classroom in August, I have had relatively few meetings that pull me away from my kids.  It's odd to have three in one week.

Weeks like this make me feel like I'm always playing catch-up.  I'm trying to figure out how far the lesson got while I was out and where I need to pick up on my return.  I'm trying to figure out what I can leave for my assistant to teach while she subs and what I need to hold back until I return on Monday.  This on top of doing the prep I need to do for the meeting.

Add to it the fact that my body is struggling to adjust to the time change, and I'm extra tired and extra hungry ALL DAY.

I'm out of steam.  For real.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It's the little things....

Sometimes I think I became a teacher because of the office supplies.

Case in point:  today, I put a brand-new chart-paper pad on my easel.  So fresh.  So open for possibility.  I am a nerd, so I took a picture and Tweeted it.
The problem is: what to do with the old one?  There's good stuff on that chart pad.  I don't have room to hang every single chart we make as a class, and honestly, not all of them are worthy of hanging or need to be hung.  But there are some charts-in-progress that I need to refer back to or add to.  For right now, I stashed it next to a closet until I can tear out the pages I still need.

Other office supplies make me happy, too.

  • A freshly-sharpened Dixon Ticonderoga pencil is one of my favorite things in the world.  I've tried other pencils, both traditional and mechanical, and I always go back to the tried-and-true.  The feeling of this pencil on paper is so smooth.  The eraser actually works.  I buy these puppies in the jumbo pack at Costco.  I get mad if one of my students picks up my pencil when I leave it on the back table.
  • Mr. Sketch scented markers have a permanent place in my classroom.  I love their vibrant colors and the fact that they don't bleed through thin chart paper.  The chisel tip allows me to do fancy lettering when I feel like it.  When the tips get mushy, I put them out for the kids to use since they don't care about mushy markers.  
  • Staedler Mars Plastic erasers.  By golly, these things are expensive.  But I don't care.  I pay the price because they erase COMPLETELY without tearing a hole in the paper.  I hide these from the kids because a few of them have seen me use my "cool white eraser" and they want one, too.  If they would like one, they should ask Mom or Dad to buy one, because my classroom budget does not have enough money in it for a class set of fancy erasers.

I know my love of office supplies sounds a bit ridiculous, but maybe not.  I know LOTS of colleagues whose second-favorite store is Office Max (second only to the book store) because they love good pens and a fresh notebook as much as I do.

And here's the thing... being surrounded by good tools makes me feel good.  Using a good pen to write notes to my students or a great marker to co-create anchor charts makes me happy, which in turn makes me a good teacher.  So yeah... I could buy cheaper supplies for myself, but I wouldn't be happy with the way things turned out.  I wouldn't get that little bit of joy and in fact might get frustrated, which wouldn't be good for anyone.

So if you're looking for me, you can find me in the pen aisle at Office Max.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A New Favorite

Once upon a time, I had a real problem with Diet Coke.  As in a six-a-day habit.  I craved the things.  I had one for my breakfast.  I had one with my lunch.  I had one with my dinner.  And I almost always had one open between meals.  I loved the cold, bubbly feeling, and to be honest, I loved the taste.  The only time I cut back was when I was pregnant.

Over time, I began to realize that this was not a good habit to have.  I was making the effort to eat whole, unprocessed foods, so why was I filling my body with these chemicals that probably were affecting my memory and processing speed?  Slowly, I cut back on my Diet Coke addiction until I was drinking just one a day, usually with my dinner.

Then, in December 2015, I was at the grocery store standing in front of the Coke display.  I had my hand on the twelve pack of Diet Coke, and I realized that if I didn't have it in the house, I wouldn't drink it.  I decided to just walk away.

I haven't had a Diet Coke since.

I still want that cold, bubbly refreshment, but I don't want the calories or chemicals in regular sodas.  In January, I decided to join the hipsters and give LaCroix a try.  I won't try to pretend that I like it more than I liked Diet Coke or even more than I like ginger ale, but I am definitely liking it more all the time.  My favorite flavors are tangerine and orange, and I find they are just as refreshing as other carbonated beverages.

There was a time, not so long ago, that I swore I hated LaCroix.  I guess it just goes to show that our tastes can change.

Monday, March 13, 2017


When the alarm went off at 5am, I really, really wanted to turn it off, roll over, and go back to sleep.  I didn't, though.  I got up, put on my sneakers, and trekked to the basement to do my 30-minute walk on the treadmill.  I knew that if I didn't get that workout in first thing, it wouldn't happen.

From there, though, my day was decidedly blah.  My breakfast was uninspired.  I was hungry all day, even though I made sure to have protein at every meal.  It snowed.

Even my students were out of it on this Monday after the time change.  At least four of them went to the nurse with headaches.  One was falling asleep at her desk during the moment of silence before the pledge.  The noise level stayed to a low hum the whole day.

I know it doesn't help to watch the clock on days like this, but I couldn't help it.  I kept glancing at the wall or down at my fitbit, willing time to pass so that I could leave and put this day behind me.

Of course, once school's out, I do my other job.  I'm Mom... driving to and from dance classes, cooking dinner, helping with homework, then doing my own.

Here's hoping I go to bed early tonight so I can have a terrific Tuesday!