Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Smile File

At the end of the year I assign my students an end of the year letter to me. I ask them to write me a friendly letter sharing their accomplishments, hopes, dreams, opinions on middle school, and most daring of all, advice to me as a teacher. I gave the 7th graders two weeks to do it (they tend to freak out over even the smallest assignment- next year should be fun with them). I also told them if they finished it early they could pass it in early. I got my first one today.

It was a very sweet letter. Her favorite things about the year were all the reading that we did together and all the books I recommended and had in my classroom library. She told me that combined with my encouragement about her poems helped her to reach her goals of reading and writing more. The very best part, the part that really made me tear up, was her closing. She ended it, "Your sister in Christ and book buddy," and then signed her full name.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Slice of Life May 25, 2010

There is no such thing as a quick trip into a book store or a library for me. We've lived in our little town for three years and love, love, love our library. It is a beautiful library- a combination of old and new construction. They have a wonderful collection- a huge children's room, a great YA section... The town that we work in also has a fabulous library and an even bigger collection, although I think their YA section needs to be bigger. We frequently visit both libraries. Everyday on our way to and from work we drive through the beautiful, scenic town of Princeton and past their beautiful, stone library (with turrets, it's got turrets!) but have never stopped.

Today we stopped. I didn't know where to spend my time focusing- on their wonderful collection (small, but good), on the stain glass windows, or the beautiful wood work. They even have a spiral stair case! We only spent about an hour there, and that was because I still needed to go to our own town library to return some books that were due.

As I headed out the door to return the books to our library, I told my husband, "I'll only be a little while, I've just got to return these..." yeah right! I've been trying to be good about not getting a big stack out of the library because I've got several already and I know I won't have too much extra time to read as we are getting to the end of the year and I'll be busy with wrapping up school. Plus, I have STACKS of books that I have bought for my classroom library that I still want to read. Then there are the books that I'll be teaching next year that I've never taught before (pretty much all of them because it's a new year of curriculum that I haven't taught before).

Sometimes I think I would love to get paid to read. Of course I want to get paid to read what I want to read!

(The picture is of the books I got (for free!) at the Scholastic Book Fair at our school a couple of weeks ago.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Five

1. This felt like a long and a short week all in one. We only had three days of academics because Tuesday was Fine Arts Day and Thursday was a field trip to the Roger Williams Zoo. It was hard to get stuff done and I'm tired!!

2. The trip to the zoo was AWESOME! I had so much fun! I really had a great time with the girls. I only have 5 girls in my class, and as my other chaperones where dads, I got the girls. At first I wasn't looking forward to it because this has been a tough year with several of them. Only one of them ever talks to me of her own accord. And one of them has said some pretty brutal things about me. But we had a great time together and today was a very different day with them. Getting to hang out together out side of the classroom made a real difference in our relationship, I believe.

3. Today was a really fun day. Matt Huffman, a guy that has come to the school for 5 years now to lead Spiritual Emphasis Week, made a surprise visit at lunch time with pizza for the 8th grade. I knew he was coming, so told the kids we had a special surprise today. I had so much fun with them this morning as they tried to figure out what and when the surprise was! I wouldn't give them very many clues. It was killing them to not know! But they were really excited to see Matt and to get free pizza!

4. We got our new truck this week! Okay, so it's used, but it is new to us. It's a cute little Ford Ranger. I really like it and can't wait to drive it. John has been joking that it's my new truck, not his! It's forest green, so just a little darker than the F250. Tonight John got home before I did and parked in my spot next to the truck. So the two trucks are parked side-by-side: FrankenTruck and Son of FrankenTruck. We're still not sure what we're going to do with FrankenTruck. We were talking about donating it, but now John is talking about trying to fix it.

5. Tomorrow we go up to New Hampshire for the afternoon. Jenn Streeter is graduating from PSU tomorrow. She was a fourth grader in my very class. Boy do I feel old! It's weird to think about the fact that she is now the age that I was when I first had her in class!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Fine Day- Slice of Life

Today was our annual Fine Arts Day. I admit, it's a day I dread every year. The theater and visual arts teacher plan the day. The kids are spread through out the school with a few from each grade in each room. We have various activities to lead that are often way out of my comfort zone and area of expertise. And we find out the morning of who is in our group and what the activities are. It often looks like orderly chaos. You have a group of kids who don't know each other or you very well and are separated from their friends. The last two years some of the activities involved building things out of cake and candy or decorating cookies with frosting and candy (of course the kids LOVE this).

All in all the day went well. I think this was the best one yet. The theme was gardening. We created mosaic tiles that will go into the new school garden; we made wind chimes, and best of all, didn't make anything out of sugary foods! I think my favorite parts of the day, even through I always groan and just try to get through the day, were watching my 8th graders really step up:

JP and K helped lead my group because I didn't have a parent volunteer. PJ had his arm around a really young kindergartner who get's overly stimulated to help him stay quiet while the principal was talking. X, D, JR, JM, JP, and PJ played soccer with the kindergartners and first and second graders- giving them the ball, cheering them on, racing across the field with them.

One of my favorite quotes from the day was JP, a former non-reader who has in the last couple of months read The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and The Knife of Never Letting Go. These are not short books. He's currently working on The Ask and The Answer, and there where several points in the day today that he stole chances to read- even carrying his book outside with him during some free time. As the day was beginning to wind down he said to me, "I never thought I'd be saying this, but, I'd rather be reading!"

After school today one of my colleagues and I went to the Scholastic Warehouse sale. I love books, and I love getting books for my students. It's is one of my greatest joys.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sunshine on a cloudy day

I've been struggling with discouragement in several areas lately. We're in that waiting period with applications are in, deadlines are past, and there is silence. The silence could mean they are processing and I'll be hearing something or it could mean I will be hearing nothing because I'm on the "not who we are looking for" pile. I've also been discouraged by some of the things going on at school, and some particular things with certain students. And then there is always the personal front. Why is it that those old insecurities I had growing up never really went away?

This morning I was feeling particularly rocky and not looking forward to facing middle schoolers or even my colleagues. I thought about texting my friend Cathy, asking for her to pray and maybe send me a verse of encouragement as she so often used to do. But she doesn't have texting on her phone, money is tight, and we texted a couple of times last week. I didn't have time to call her, so I just prayed, "Lord, I need shoring up this morning!" and trusted that he would let the appropriate person know who needed to pray for me or encourage me.

I went through my day, some moments were lighter, and I did enjoy my 7th graders. After all, when I'm reading to them (our current read aloud is Cynthia Lord's TouchBlue- due out from Scholastic in August- AWESOME book! I highly recommend it!) and the end of the chapter is greeted with cries of, "NOOO! Please don't stop! Keep going!!!!" how can I not be happy? I'm all too happy to comply!

After staff meeting I went over to the Chapel side of the building to see John. On my way back I stopped by the receptionist's office to say hi to Sue and find out if their house had sold yet. They've been trying since November to sell their house so they can move to their new retirement home in Florida. We got to talking about our similar experiences with being in that waiting period. And boy, did Sue encourage me! She spoke directly to some of those very self-doubts that I had been wrestling with all day and gave me the shoring up I had so desperately felt the need for this morning.

When we got home, I logged onto my email and there was a message from the school that I'd applied to for a job teaching summer school- asking to set up a phone call to discuss the job!

I still don't know about the job's in Maine that I've applied for and I have another application that I need to fill out and get in, but I'm feeling much more encouraged about things right now. My confidence in my teaching ability, my hope for extra income that will allow us to take our annual Cape Cod vacation, the foundation is a little less shaky tonight.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Miracles do happen- Slice of Life

The Scholastic Book Fair is this week. It's always an exciting event for me! All the classes were scheduled for a 30 minutes preview today. When I signed up for my time slot with my 8th graders, I thought, we probably won't use the whole 30 minutes. It'll probably take 10 or 15 at the most before they loose interest and start fooling around.

Boy was I surprised and delighted when they spent the entire 30 minutes looking at books! No one fooled around for even a moment. Several made lists of books they want to buy, and they would have kept looking at books had our time not been up. They weren't just pulling books off the shelves and then putting them back with barely a glance, they were pulling books, opening them, showing their friends, and standing there reading them. Two groups of boys stood in huddles with copies of the same book, looking through them. The girls were reading the backs of books to each other. A couple of boys found a book they really liked and said, "Mrs. Stotz! You have to get this one for the classroom!" So of course that went right into my stack!

My 7th graders previewed the sale with their homeroom teacher right before the 8th graders. When I walked into the gym with my homeroom, they were still there. "Mrs. Stotz! Look at my list!" They all wanted to show me what they where hoping for. When I told them, "Oh yeah, I have that one on my wish list, too." They replied, "We know, we looked through your stack to see what you were getting!"