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!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mother Nature... You're Drunk!

Today is March 12.  We're nearly halfway through the month where spring officially arrived.  We've "sprung ahead", daffodils are blooming around town, and yards are greening up.

Then there's this:

Yuck!  I am FINISHED with winter weather.  We had no measurable snow on the ground through January or February.  I thought perhaps we were out of the woods and I could consider changing out my closet and bringing out my warmer clothes. But NO!  Instead, I'm making sure my snow boots are out and ready for me to slip them on tomorrow morning.  I'm wondering what happened to my warm winter hat.  I dug out my scarf.  I guess I'll wait to take my winter coat to the cleaners.

I live in northern Illinois. I should not be surprised by anything when it comes to the weather, as it seems to change every five minutes.  I tell myself that I like living in a part of the world where we have four distinct seasons.  And I do!  I love spring with its flowers and green (though the hyacinths and other bulbs drive my allergies crazy).  I like the heat and humidity of summer in June and early July, and I tolerate it through August.  Fall is gorgeous, especially the forest preserves where the landscape is like an artists palette.  Even winter has its charms, with clear air and that first, magical snowfall of the winter.

But I don't like it when I get a tease of spring and then get pushed headlong back into winter's icy grip.  I've been spoiled by sunny days and warm-ish breezes.

Come on, Mother Nature.  Bring on spring for real!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Almost Forgot

It is 9:44pm on Saturday night, and I am about to head to bed.  I was closing the lid on my laptop when I realized I hadn't written tonight's slice.

So here I am.  Writing.  Now.
My kids are at a Panic! At the Disco concert.  One will be coming home afterwards; the other is spending the night at a friend's house.  My husband is dozing at the other end of the couch.  The dog is squeezed in next to me.

It is 9:46 pm.  The friends we had over for dinner have already left.  The slight buzz I had from my margarita is worn off, and all I feel is tired.  And thirsty.  I have written the grocery list.

What a glamorous life I lead, sitting on my couch at 9:50 pm, Saturday Night Live rerun on, trying to stay awake long enough to write a blog post so I don't lose my streak.

So I did it.  I wrote.  It's not good, but it's written.

Time to hit "Publish" and head on up to bed.  For real this time.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Fun

Tonight I went to see the junior high production of Shrek, Jr.  What a fun way to spend a Friday evening.  The kids did a great job of putting on the show, but of course, I had a favorite actor!

Abby was cast as the Pied Piper, but at the last minute, she was tapped to take over the role of one of the Three Little Pigs, since the girl playing the role was sick.  Abby found out at 3:35 yesterday afternoon that she would be taking over for the first performance, and she reprised the role again tonight.  This, on top of her regular role!

What a proud mom I was.  The directors knew Abby would be able to slip into this role, learning the couple of lines, yes, but also singing the songs and quickly picking up choreography.  She rose to the challenge, just like they (and I) knew she would.

I love seeing my kids do the things they love.  Whether playing in the band or orchestra, performing in a play, or dancing in a recital, their passion and dedication shows.  I also love that they share these activities as well.  These two have a bond that is growing as they get older.

I can't wait to see what's next.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Playing Hooky

I took the day off today.  It's not something I do on a whim, as I know it's better for my students if I am at school.  And honestly, writing sub plans is a drag.  I'm lucky that my teaching assistant subs for me whenever I am out, so I don't have to write as detailed a plan as I would if a stranger were subbing.  I knew my class was in good hands.

I decided to take the day because I wanted to spend some time with my guy.  Dan was off this week since he's starting a new job on Monday, and I thought it would be nice to do something just the two of us.  We don't get to do this often, since we are, after all, parents.

We are nerds, so we decided to go to the Chicago History Museum.  Neither of us had ever been before, and it is a great little museum (if you ignore the swarms of kids there on field trips).  My favorite exhibit took me through Chicago's history from Fort Dearborn to modern day - though they have yet to update the section on the Chicago Cubs to reflect the World Series win.  The exhibits don't gloss over the grittier parts of Chicago's history, either, such as the Haymarket bombing or the race riot of 1919.  It was thought-provoking, and I learned so much.

This is Chicago's very first L car!  The real thing!
We wandered the museum, talking about the things that we found interesting or intriguing, and then strolled leisurely to a nearby restaurant for lunch.  We talked about stuff.  We ate.  We just enjoyed being together without rushing to drive a kid somewhere.

I'm so glad I decided to take today off.  Between being a mom and being a teacher, my emotions and energy are often completely tapped out.  Days like today remind me that I need to slow down, take a break, and just spend time with my husband, since one day in the not-too-distant future, we'll be on our own again.  We need to still like each other when that day comes.  We need to still feel connected, to remember who we are.  As we were walking back to our car after lunch, Dan mentioned that he thinks he should schedule a week of vacation where he can just do a bunch of nothing too taxing every year.  I think he's right.  I also think when he takes that week, I'll take a personal day so we can do a bunch of nothing together.

Because sometimes, a bunch of nothing is really something.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

There's a Reason I'm Not an Art Teacher

As a teacher, I'm pretty good at many things.  I have great relationships with the kids in my class.  I can talk books like nobody's business.  I can look at student writing and see what lessons need to happen next.

But I am not an art teacher.


My "confused" person looks drunk.  For real.  I'm kind of surprised no adult in my school has commented on it.  If you enlarge the picture, his eyes are spirals.  Why on earth did I choose to draw that picture that way?

These were my drawings during today's introduction to measurement.  What the heck?  If I hadn't taught the lesson, I wouldn't know what these things were supposed to be!

These are just two of my sad attempts at drawing in my classroom.  I am very comfortable admitting that I can't draw to save my life.  I'm okay with it.  I own it.

And I think it's important for my students to see that.  So many of them are caught up with getting it "right" or always being perfect.  It's important for them to see that sometimes, a quick draft or sketch is all that's necessary, and those will be far from perfect.  It's important for them to see an adult being vulnerable and doing something outside his/her comfort zone.

How can I expect my kids to take risks if I am unable to take them myself?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Left at Home

This morning I got to school early so I could take care of some tasks before my grade level team meeting.  I entered my room, went over to my desk, and began to unpack.  When I reached into my purse to get my phone out, I realized I left it at home.  Eh... I thought, no biggie.  I don't really use my phone at school anyway.

As the day wore on, I realized that I DO use my phone at school, more than I thought.  I take pictures throughout the day to capture the ins and outs of my classroom.  Some of these pix I tweet from my classroom Twitter account during my plan periods.  Some of them will end up in my Friday newsletter.  Some of them will just live on my computer for a while, bringing back great memories of my first year in third grade.

There were several times I reached for my phone to take pictures.  But I most regretted leaving it at home when I took my kids out into the March sunshine for an extra recess before dismissal.  We were the only class on the playground.  Several girls were playing a strange tag game that involved a tennis ball and lots of screaming.  A group of boys was playing "American Ninja Warrior" on the monkey bars.  Another group of girls was hanging out on the swings.  Other boys were climbing on the slides. It would have been great to capture these unguarded moments, these opportunities to just be kids on a playground.

On the other hand, since I didn't have my phone to filter my view of the kids, I saw things I don't get to see in the classroom.  I saw which kids actually play together, which ones move off away from the group to have some quiet time, which ones actually play alone but alongside their peers.

I was also able to think back to my own days in third grade, to the games I played on the playground at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School.  I seem to remember playing a lot of kickball in the field behind the school.  Dodgeball on the front blacktop.  Jumprope.  Tag.  Many of the same things my students are playing more than 30 years later.

So yeah, I felt a little lost today, knowing my phone was sitting on the dining table where I left it after breakfast.

But I also felt a little found.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Teacher AND Learner

Today, kids across Illinois had the day off of school to commemorate Casimir Pulaski.  Don't know who he is?  You can read about this Revolutionary War general here.  In my school district, the kids are off, but the teachers have an inservice day.  This year, we started the day with a whole-district presentation about supporting students with anxiety disorders in the classroom.  It was interesting and informative, but it certainly wasn't interactive.  The presenters left about two minutes for questions.

Following that presentation, the elementary teachers left and went to another building to have EdCamp D28.  I was on the committee that organized this day, and I was a bit nervous going in.  I don't know of many of my colleagues who have attended an EdCamp, and I wasn't sure how the day would go.  As a committee, we made the decision to pre-fill part of the schedule by asking teachers ahead of time for session ideas.  We had about 18 different options, which was great!

Our district places a high value on student voice and choice in our classrooms, and it was awesome to see that value reflected in our PD day.  As I moved through sessions, it seemed some teachers were more comfortable with the "unconference" aspect of EdCamp than others, which is to be expected for the first time.  I hope our district will do more days like this, so that teachers will feel empowered to make choices about their own professional learning.

I plan on wearing my "Team 28" tee shirt with pride throughout the rest of this school year.  I think it sends an important message about who I am.  I am a teacher AND a learner.  I think that is one of the things that keeps teaching fresh for me after 23 years.  I seek to learn something new  People who know me know I own almost every literacy-based book in both the Heinemann and Stenhouse catalogs (and I'm making a dent on the math ones).  I love going to conferences to learn from not only the big guns in the ed world but also everyday classroom teachers.  I love participating in Twitter chats to get new ideas and challenge my own thinking about what I do in my classroom every day. I love participating in labs that take me into colleagues classrooms.

Maybe that's part of the reason I became a teacher.  If I teach, I never have to leave school!  I can continue to be surrounded by books and pencils and markers and kids and other adults who are just as nerdy as I am.

I am a teacher and a learner.
And I hope that never changes.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Healthy Eating

For most of the past fifteen years, I have made a concentrated effort to cook healthy meals for my family most nights of the week.  I buy lots of fresh produce and lean meats.  I cook from scratch.  My knife skills are pretty good for an amateur.

Most nights our meals look like this:

I spend time on Friday evenings going through cookbooks and Pinterest pins to plan my meals for the week, then head to the grocery store on Saturday or Sunday.  I find that if I invest this time over the weekend, I'm more likely to cook throughout the week.

I won't lie; there are still nights when I throw frozen chicken Kievs in the oven and call it a night.  Or I'll make Polish sausage and pierogi and maybe a veg.  There are nights when we call for Thai delivery.

But most of the time I find myself in the kitchen at 6pm, wielding my knives and my skillets, making dinner for my family.

I don't mind it, really.  I find cooking relaxing most of the time, especially if I know I have all of the ingredients on hand.  Chopping vegetables for sauteeing or steaming is kind of like meditating for me.  I sometimes have music on or the news in the background (no TV in my kitchen), but this is time when I let my mind wander and think about my day.  Sometimes the recipes bring back memories of family dinners past, when my girls were little and they ate pretty much anything I cooked because they wanted dessert later. Sometimes the memories are even older, when I was little and my grandfather would make ribs or a beef tenderloin on his giant Weber kettle while my grandma made salad and twice-baked potatoes in the kitchen.

I think about her, too, when I make meatloaf WITH ketchup on it.  But I don't burn the bottom.

For me, food is wrapped up in emotion and memories, as I suspect it is for many people.  So many traditions have food at their center, and ours are no different:  cinnamon rolls on Easter morning; coffee cake on Christmas morning; a chocolate-frosted lamb cake for Easter dinner at my in-laws.  I look forward to seeing what traditions my girls carry on with them when they have families of their own.

But the best part of making dinner?  If I cook, the other three clean up!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Pizza Night

Tonight was pizza night at the Rench Ranch.

I realized last night when I was making the grocery list that we had not made homemade pizzas since we moved into this house.  Boboli pizzas, yes.  Delivery, too often to mention.  But not for real made-from-scratch dough pizzas?  Nope.

One reason I've put off making pizzas is the fact that my kitchen is short on counter space.  In the old house, I had a huge island where I could roll dough and put out all of the toppings.  Not so in the new house, but I've learned how to make things work when I need to.

My kids certainly didn't mind standing at the stove to put the toppings on their pizzas.  Neither did I.

I love these nights when we are all in and out of the kitchen.  Dinner certainly isn't a chore when everyone is laughing, music is playing, and I have a nice glass of red at my elbow as I roll out pizza dough.  Even better, we each have our own pizza, so we can customize them as we please.

Here's mine:

Pepperoni, sausage, olives, and mushrooms.  All of my favorite toppings.

Saturday night dinners at our house are casual.  I don't go out of my way to make over-the-top dishes.  Sometimes we just have noodles and red sauce or waffles or scrambled eggs and bacon.  I figure I cook healthy, balanced meals at least five nights a week, so I can take it a bit easier on Saturday nights.

I also know that these Saturday nights when we are all four at home to share stories and laughter around the dinner table are numbered.  Molly is a sophomore, Abby a seventh grader.  Before I know it, they will be out of the house, making lives of their own.  I hope they will take some of these family traditions and recipes with them as they do.

And I hope they remember they will always have a place at my table.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Friday in Third

Friday afternoon in third grade is a world away from Monday. Today my kids were super chatty all day, and not in that good "I'm excited about my learning" way.  They couldn't keep their hands to themselves.  As we walked through the hallways, our line looked more like a giant anaconda than the straight quiet line our hallway expectations posters ask for.  They kept falling off of their chairs; it didn't matter if the chair was a regular chair, a wobble stool, or a yoga ball.  We all know that once one kid slipped off the chair at least five more were sure to follow.  It's funny.

I didn't think it was funny.  I was annoyed.  As the day went on, I could feel my patience slipping away.  I could feel the sarcasm creeping into my brain, and I had to actively stop my mouth from letting sarcastic, zinging words past my lips.  During my afternoon prep, I didn't make myself work.  Instead, I sat in my classroom and just let myself BE.  I scrolled through my Twitter feed.  I read a National Geographic Kids magazine.

On Mondays, I am energized, ready to go for the week, my head full of plans.
On Fridays, I am spent, energy exerted, my head full of wishes for a weekend of quiet and relaxation.

Of course, as a mom of a teenager and an almost teenager, a wife, and a homemaker, my weekends are rarely full of quiet and relaxation.  Tonight I will begin to tackle my weekend to-do list:  menu plan for next week, make the grocery list, tidy, vacuum, laundry, lesson planning.  There's always a list, and there's always at least one thing that doesn't get done.  And I'm ok with that.

Because I will take some time for me this weekend.  That might look like binge-watching some episodes of Downton Abbey.  It might be a nap on Saturday afternoon.  It might be finding a book to lose myself in.  It will definitely involve conversation, laughter, and at least one glass of wine.

Because I have to recharge.

Because I have to be energized, ready for the week, my head full of plans on Monday.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Snow fair

Yesterday was March 1.
And it snowed.

Here in the Chicago area, we had no measurable snow cover in January or February.  In fact, within the past week, we had 70 degree temperatures and people were wearing shorts on the Lake Michigan beach.  We had a glorious sneak peek tease of spring and then...


Winter returned.  Not with a vengeance, not even angry.  I'd say winter was slightly miffed.  Annoyed enough to to drop the temps and make flakes swirl in the March air.

Honestly, I'm ready for winter to move on, to bother the fine folks in the southern hemisphere.  I'm ready for daffodils and hyacinths and kites flying in parks.  I'm ready for morning walks outside instead of on the treadmill and blossoms on the trees.

I know, though, that March is fickle.  That winter doesn't really have to evacuate the premises until later in the month, closer to spring break.

Until then, I'll wait, albeit impatiently.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Working Smarter... And Harder

Here I am... my fifth go at the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Every year I look forward to the arrival of the SOLSC, because it means warmer weather and spring are just around the corner.  Every year I think maybe THIS will be the year the writing habit will stick.  So far, no dice.

Earlier this week, I was looking through my Twitter feed (no surprise there), and quoted a tweet that struck me.  It led to this exchange:

When I read Dana's response, my first thought was "That would be a great Slice of Life entry!"  So here goes... how my school life is different as a third grade teacher than it was as a literacy coach or even as a 7th grade teacher.

I look at this work load as two separate entities:  things I do at school and the work I bring home.

In some respects, the work I bring home is not that much more than what I brought home as a coach.  In my life before literacy coaching, I was a seventh grade language arts teacher.  My home workload for those 18 years was CRAZY!  It was not uncommon for me to spend a good 6 hours on Sunday afternoons/evenings grading and planning.  As a coach, my homework was mostly reading professional books and journals, doing data analysis after our fall and spring benchmarking, and planning for PD workshops and book studies.  Most of my other planning I could do during the school day when I wasn't in classrooms or meeting with teachers.  As a third grade teacher, I spend about 45 minutes or less in the evening looking over student work from the day, and on Sundays I spend an hour or two planning and getting ready for the week ahead.  I don't mind doing this work at home, because by the end of the school day, I am beat.  I need some decompression time!

It's during the school day that I notice a HUGE change in the work load.  It's true that I see far fewer students (18 versus the 60 or so I saw daily at the junior high) and I have a paraprofessional with me daily for my literacy and math blocks.  However, I am with kids more total minutes each day now as a third grade teacher than I used to be as a JH teacher and definitely as a coach.  Teaching elementary school is a full-contact job!  My specials periods are 30 minutes each, so after walking the kids to PE or art and then going to pick them up and walk them back after, I lose about 10 minutes.  That gives me 20 minutes to make calls, grade, answer emails, check my mailbox, and do all the other things that teachers do during their planning periods.  There are days when I think back on my daily 40 to 80 minutes of plan time with great longing.  I won't lie.

The mental work of teaching elementary school is also more exhausting.  As a middle school teacher, I taught the same lesson multiple times.  I could make adjustments to make a lesson go better, but I wasn't teaching something new each period.  Now, I teach all subjects, so I NEVER repeat a lesson.  Add that to the fact that I am teaching math and science for the first time EVER, and you can see why my brain is exhausted at the end of the day.

That being said, I LOVE my new gig.  I find learning the new curriculum and working with my grade level team to be invigorating.  Third graders are sponges that soak up everything.  They are excited about learning.  They laugh when I'm goofy - and I can BE goofy with them in ways I never could be with older kids.  I have learned this year that I NEED to be in the company of children daily.  I might get tired, but it's the good kind of tired.

So there you go, Dana.  My long answer to your short question!

Now.. who has a question for me to answer tomorrow?