Thursday, March 31, 2011

SOLS 31 of 31

The middle schoolers finished their state projects. The gym is decorated for the annual banquet. The term is ending. I've sliced for 31 of 31 days.

Nothing like the feeling of accomplishment.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SOLS 30 of 31

The email showed up in my inbox this after noon, the Subject line taunting me: Do not open until Friday.

I almost clicked on it several times.
But wait, what if it is a virus that is going to eat my computer, just as I have to do grades for report cards? That would be horrible!

So I emailed my friend who sent it to me.
"So I got this email from you that said not to open it until Friday. What if I don't want to wait. Or better yet, what if I decide not to open it at all?? Huh? What then?"

His response?

Guess I've got to have patience.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SOLS 29 of 31

Changing plans
just a bit.
Finding a few quiet moments in
an otherwise crazy day.
Taking a deep breath and
Pressure's off for just a few minutes.
Deep breath.
Dive back in.

Monday, March 28, 2011

SOLS 28 of 31

I try to ignore the numbers ticking away in the lower right hand corner of my screen. This packet must be completed because my sixth graders are being introduced to the project tomorrow. Why do I always get my best ideas at the last minute? I think I've got everything thought through and organized, but we'll find out once things get under way.

I curse the clock. I'm pleased with the packet I've just put together, but I still have 5 character analysis essays to proof read and 7 research papers to grade. My eyes are starting to burn and I'm having trouble focusing. I've been sitting in this chair since dinner and I've been doing school work ALL day. I'm tired. My body is tired and my brain is tired. I'm going to having to let the essays go once again. How are my 8th graders going to get their final drafts done if I can't get their rough drafts proofed and back to them? I've already moved the due date once. I can't move it again, the term ends Friday and we finished the novel weeks ago. We've got to move on to poetry.

The lines from Robert Frost are running through my head
...and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep.

However, I'm going to take my own advice to my coworker: sometimes you just have to accept that things are going to be left undone and get some sleep.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

SOLS 27 of 31

Another weekend has slipped by. I know that this is a crunch time; the term ends Friday, I've got lots of planning to do for the new term, but I've got correcting to get caught up on, grades to post, and conferences to prepare for. Yet after spending 5 hours at school on Saturday cleaning my desk and planning for the coming week, and about 8 hours today correcting papers, I look around me and wonder where my weekend has gone. I want to sleep in and sit and read a book, one for fun, not because it will help me prepare my next unit of study.

I gazed out the window at the bright sun shine this afternoon. The fact that it is freezing out was some consolation for being stuck at my desk. I know that soon my feet won't be cold all the time, I'll be able to open the windows for fresh air, and I'll (hopefully) have time to read for fun. This too shall pass.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

SOLS 26 of 31

As I drove down route 140, I noticed a tree with icicles hanging off the middle of some branches. There were also rather large icicles hanging off a knot in a branch. At first I couldn't figure out why there were icicles on just one or two trees when there hadn't been any rain. Then it hit me, the trees were sugar maples!

I instantly remembered the sugar maples at the farm up the road from my childhood home. These big, old trees lined the road at my friend's farm. They would be tapped every March. Little icicles would hang off the branches and we would break them off and suck on them, savoring the taste of maple and bark.

Friday, March 25, 2011

SOLS 25 of 31

Our landlady called last night to say she and her husband were bringing over a new stove for the house tonight. After we were done dinner my husband went down to the basement to get cardboard to put under the old stove so that it would not scratch up the floor when they moved it.
"Huh," he exclaimed. "How come all our boxes are Amazon?"

"They're not all from Amazon," I replied. "some are from Scholastic!"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SOLS 24 of 31

I didn't time it quite right. By the time I got up to my classroom to grab my guitar and head to my first lesson, the students were coming in from recess and heading to their afternoon classes. I stood next to my door waiting for the hall to clear. Our hallway is very narrow and there was no way my guitar and I would make it through with out someone getting hurt.

"You play guitar, Mrs. Stotz?" Several students asked in surprise. M, one of my 8th graders stopped in front of me and asked the same question. A warm smile grew on her face as I answered.

"I'm learning. Mrs. Suchauki is giving me some lessons."

"That's great!" M replied. "Have fun!"

I headed off to my first official guitar lesson with a warm feeling. The response from the kids was encouraging. They were really pleased that I was learning guitar. Many of them are learning themselves. M is one of Mrs. Suchauki's guitar students and has been playing on the worship team. I think her warm, encouraging smile meant the most to me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SOLS 23 of 31

Sometimes I feel like I'm fighting an up hill battle. But there are those moments when it all clicks and I feel like a real English teacher. I love those moments.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SOLS 22 of 31

Sometimes in the middle of the battle you have to pull back. It's not a retreat. It's a necessary move in order to regroup and take a look at the bigger picture. You need to see the whole board. Identify what isn't working and why. Strategize and make a new plan. Then take a deep breath and plunge back in.

Monday, March 21, 2011

SOLS 21 of 31

When the registration for New England SCBWI conference first opened I looked at the details and got really excited. I told my husband I wanted to go. But the price seemed too much. After all, we're trying to finish paying off debt, I've just taken a new job for next year that is going to pay less, and we're going to have moving expenses this summer. Although I desperately wanted to go, after all, it's just the next town over and there are going to be amazing workshops and speakers, and many authors that I admire, I didn't push it because I've been trying to be good about expenses. It's been bugging me and I thought I'd try again. Tonight I checked the website and the conference is full. I'm really sad. I missed my chance. Sigh.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

SOLS 20 of 31

My laptop is set to automatically connect to the internet and Pandora Radio automatically loads when there is an internet connection. So I was a little perplexed this evening when I booted up my computer and music didn't start playing. I checked the connection and saw that I wasn't connected to the internet. I checked the modem. The DSL light was flashing and the internet light was off. Darn. I flipped the switch to reset it. Nothing changed. Darn. The internet was down.

I was discouraged. It had been a lousy afternoon and I was feeling down about a number of things. I still had laundry to do and papers to mark. And my slice of life to write. How was I going to get it posted for today. We went through dinner and after putting away the left overs I sat down with my correcting and my husband prepared to get into the shower.

"Oh." He suddenly said.
"Honey," he came into my office. "Did you check the connection on the modem? I moved some wires when I was vacuuming earlier."

We went back into the living room and I got down on the floor under his computer desk. Sure enough, the phone and modem had come unplugged from the jack. I plugged it back in and wiggled it around a bit to make sure it would stay. Wallah! The internet was back. What a relief!

Scrawl by Mark Shulman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fabulous book. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. The voice of Tod was so authentic! He is an unreliable narrator; you can tell he isn't telling the whole truth, yet you're cheering for him the whole way through.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

SOLS 19 of 31

Friday afternoon as I'm doing my week ahead planning, I have all sorts of grand plans of everything I'm going to accomplish over the weekend: the papers I'm finally going to catch up on, the novel unit I'm going to finish writing, the worksheets I'm going to revise...

Then Saturday comes. We spend a leisurely morning reading at the breakfast table. I make a trip to the library to return books that are due, and though I know better I return home with another arm load. It's very likely that more than one will be returned in three weeks not having been opened, but I just leave them there in the library. After lunch I sit down to check email and catch up on a few blogs. Before long it is supper time and I've not even unpacked my school bag.

Maybe this is how the weekend is supposed to be.

Rival by Sara Bennet Wealer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book. It's Mean Girls meets Glee. I wanted to lock Brooke and Kathryne in a practice room together and tell them that they needed to stop misinterpreting each other! I actually have two students who I think would enjoy this book, and I hope to get it into their hands before the school year is out.

Friday, March 18, 2011

SOLS 18 of 31

I was a bit nervous about how it would be received, but I had to say it. I just couldn't let it go. So as soon as I had the chance, I took a deep breath and said, "Can I share an observation from Wednesday when I had a chance to be in your 7th grade class for a few minutes?"

"Please do!" My colleague exclaimed. His tone of voice and body language were clearly communicating an eagerness to learn and improve his teaching. Tat always amazes me. I have so much respect for Gary. He is older than me, is a full time pastor and a college professor. He has been teaching much longer than I have, yet he is always eager for input.

A student had been reading aloud to the class. This particular student "reads" very quickly. That is, he can say the words in the order they are printed. He doesn't always absorb what he is reading. When ever he has read aloud in my class, I make him slow down. On Wednesday when this student was reading in Gary's class, another student said, "Can you please slow down? I can't understand you." Speedy Reader replied, "You just have to follow along," and kept reading quickly. I was so delighted that the student had spoken up for his needs as a learner and heart sick that he had been shut down so rudely and Gary hadn't intervened.

When Gary and I talked this morning, I explained what I had observed, the important teachable moment he had missed, and how he should handle the situation when it comes up next time. We talked about some other activities that he can use to reinforce literacy skills in his history class.

I love my coworkers and I enjoy working with them. I love that we can collaborate and that we can learn from each other. I wish that we got more time to actually work and plan together; we could be so much more effective!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

SOLS 17 of 31

My 7th graders handed in their one-pager book reports today. One of my reluctant/resistant readers had chosen to read The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. He was so proud earlier this week when he finished the book (it is 496 pages long!). Two other boys (also reluctant/resistant readers) read The Hunger Games. They were talking about their books, how they ended, and whether or not they were going to read the rest of the series.

Today at dismissal they were talking about it again. D, who read TKNLG, said, "I'm going to read the next two books for my next book reports." Then he saw me, "Mrs. Stotz! When is our next book report?"

"May," I replied. "We'll take the month of May for the next one."

D nodded and turned to his buddies, "I'm going to read the second one then."

We just concluded our Second Annual Read-A-Thon fundraiser and for the second time the grand prize for the 5-8th graders was a limo ride to the local Scholastic Warehouse with money to spend on books. Two students from each grade got to go. I was one of the chaperons last year; it was so much fun! This year the 5-6 English teacher got to go because she pretty much organized and ran the read-a-thon herself. I was delighted that she got to have that experience with the kids, including two of her own children who were top winners for their grades. My 8th graders returned, jumping up and down with excitement.

"Mrs. Stotz! We got you presents!" The two of them proceeded to pulled books out of their bags and pile them in my hands. "We pooled our money to buy these for you! And this one, we read the back and it sounded like one you would like!"

I was so touched by their joy, their thoughtfulness, and their love. I've already started The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman, and so far, they were right. I'm enjoying it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SOLS 16 of 31

Last night I finally sat down and read through the slice of life pieces my 7th graders had turned in last week. I've been using these to build writing stamina (they need it!) and to try to get them to use sensory detail and description. I've been marking the errors I just can't ignore, but focusing on what they are doing well. There were several that had really good voice, good detail, or really good word choice. I set those aside so that I could read them to the class today.

I prefaced the reading of each piece by saying what had stood out to me, so that they knew what to be listening for. I didn't tell who the author of each piece was, but being 7th graders, they HAD to try to guess. If the author revealed themselves, fine, but other wise, I wouldn't tell. They really enjoyed the pieces. When I finished, the kids asked if I would do that every day; pick the ones I liked and read them. Of course I agreed! I'm hoping that this will motivate some of them to try harder. I know it might be demotivating for some, but hopefully the fact that I don't reveal the author- nor confirm if they guess right, will provide enough protection.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SOLS 15 of 31

Some days you're just glad to have reached the end.

Some days instead of breaking your heart they break your sanity.

Some days you have a hard time finding the things you love about your job.

Good thing it's just some days.

Monday, March 14, 2011

SOLS 14 of 31

The sounds of school:

Squeals of delight from next door.

"I! I!" Y comes running in to our homeroom from the science room. "You have to come see. Our seeds sprouted!"

And my room clears as all the 8th graders run to examine the tiny sprouts.

"We thought they were dead! They sprouted!"


"Happy what Day?" A sixth grader leans in my door, squinting at the board.

"Pi Day!"

"Pie day? You forgot the 'e'".

"No, Pi Day. The mathematical concept: Pi. 3.14..."


"You know, Mrs. Stotz," B says seriously as he works on his book report, "The paragraph for this One-Pager is going to be a lot easier because we've been doing so much writing lately. When we did the One-Pager back in December, that was hard. This is probably going to be easier."

The joys of learning!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

SOLS 13 of 31

Last summer I got together for lunch at Shorty's Mexican Roadhouse with one of my former students. She's now in college and we had not seen each other in several years, although we've kept in touch through facebook and email. We had a wonderful time catching up. I also had a wonderful sandwich. It was one of those that you really enjoy and think, I could recreate this! A Mexican BLT; your classic BLT with avocado and refried beans. So I bought the fixings, but we never made the sandwiches.

Last week we took inventory of the pantry cabinet before I went grocery shopping. There sat the can of Trader Joe's Refried Beans. "Why do we have a can of refried beans?" asked my husband. I explained the Mexican BLT to him and he encouraged me to get the rest of the fixings. And today, beloved husband made Mexican BLTs for lunch.

"Do you want to come help?"

"No, I'd rather stay out of your way."

And I'm glad I did!

The sandwiches were not like Shorty's, but they were tasty. Although, I don't recommend using wheat bread or red bell pepper.

Edited to add: The taste of the wheat bread over-powered the rest of the ingredients. My husband said the same thing about the red bell pepper. When I ate my sandwich, the red pepper had fallen out, so I ate it as a side.

Blank Confession by Pete Hautman

Blank ConfessionBlank Confession by Pete Hautman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this was a quick read, I enjoyed every minute of it. The three different narrative views helped to create the mystery aspect of the story, as did the use of flashback. It was easy to follow. The characters appeared simple, yet were truly complex.

Another book that is worth investing in.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 12, 2011

SOLS 12 of 31

I fumbled with the strings and within minutes my finger tips where screaming in pain. I almost stopped, but I knew I shouldn't. After a few more minutes the sharp pain dulled to a sore pressure and the chords that I once knew where coming back to me. I messed around for a while, fingering through chords, but feeling that they weren't forming recognizable songs, but I stuck with it.

It's been a couple years since I did more than move the guitar case so I could vacuum the floor. If I want to make any progress I need to keep at it. So before I meet with the music teacher at school for my first lesson in two weeks, I better get those callouses built up and get those chords back in my head.

Give It Forward Contest- The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

I first started hearing about The Sky Is Everywhere a year or so ago. Everything I heard about it was positive, and it sounded interesting, so I added it to my To Read List. It wasn't until this winter that I actually read it. And I loved it.

Just recently Ginger Johnson sponsored a give away for it on her blog, and I won! So I have a copy coming to me, which delights me. Part of the rules was that I would continue to share the love by hosting a give away of my own. Here it is:

Please read the rules below, because this contest is a bit different. The most important condition is that if you win, you MUST buy a new hardcover of the copy and give it away on your blog.

Just comment on this post (1 entry), tweet about this post (1 entry), put this post on your Facebook wall (1 entry), and you will have a chance (or two or three) to win your very own brand new copy of THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. Please be sure to let me know in your comment if you have tweeted or posted on Facebook.

So the rules:

1. You MUST have a blog where you can give the book away.

2. You MUST be willing to hold this exact giveaway on your blog in which you purchase this book for someone else (or give away the one you receive from me, IF you don’t love it) and require that YOUR winner do the same. Preferably within TWO WEEKS of receiving the book from me.

3. If you win, PLEASE enter your giveaway into the linky widget on Casey McCormick's blog and have YOUR winner do the same. Then Casey can track how long the chain lasts and how many purchases result from this give-away.

4. Open to US residents only.

5. The contest will run March 12 to March 26 MIDNIGHT EST. I will announce the winner on March 27 and the chain will continue.

If you don't want to enter the contest, but want to give away a book on your own blog, head over to Casey's blog and add yourself to the linky at the bottom.

Big Nate: From the Top by Lincoln Peirce

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first Big Nate book that I've read, I'm sad to say. I loved it! Nate is a riot. I wish that I had added him to my classroom library long ago. I don't think it's too late.

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity: A Memoir by Kate Braestrup

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy reading Kate Braestrup's writing. Her style and sense of humor remind me very much of Anne Lamott, another of my favorite writers. This collection of essays about love where enjoyable and encouraging. I don't agree with all of Kate's theology, but I don't let that keep me from enjoying her stories and her insights into marriage, life, and being human. I look forward to reading more of her work.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In a world where love is not only illegal, but classified as a disease, Lena is eagerly counting the days until she will have the procedure that will cure and protect her. But just a few months before her scheduled procedure, her world is turned upside down and she begins to question everything she thought she knew.

This was an amazing book. I loved Lena, the main character. Her development over the course of the story is believable and enjoyable. I'm thrilled that this is first in a trilogy. The world is so well built and I really look forward to seeing more of it. One of the things that was fun for me was the setting. While it is set in a fictional era, Lauren Oliver used many real, recognizable landmarks in Portland, Maine. Having grown up in southern Maine, and preparing to move back to that area this summer, I really felt I could picture the events of the story with more reality. Knowing these real places exist, and seeing them place a part in such a dystopian story helped to create the tone. I also appreciate that there was very little swearing and no sexual content.

In thinking about possible reading ladders for this, I would suggest it to someone who had read The Giver, The Hunger Games, and Matched. I definitely plan to get this for my classroom library.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Awesome Giveaway at Breathless Reads

I've read 2 of these books: The Replacement and Across the Universe, and am in the middle of Matched. They're great books! Definitely ones that I want to get for my classroom library. You should check them out, too!

Okay, so the link is bigger than my blog space and I don't know how to change that. Yikes. Hope it won't turn you off from checking out the contest or these books!

SOLS 11 of 31

Nearly every Friday the third grade teacher and I stay late to do our planning and photocopying for the next week. It has become routine. Most weeks Sandi goes to Starbucks and buys coffee for whoever is staying late. Sometimes Nikki, the 6th grade teacher, stays and on the rare occasion one or two others will stay. Sandi is very gracious, she never will accept money and always treats us. Occasionally someone will slip a gift card into her box; we never own up to who gave it to her, but she usually figures it out.

Some weeks Sandi is too tired to go all the way to Starbucks or we have Starbucks on Thursday because we stayed through for an evening event, so she goes to Dunk'n Donuts. It's just not the same. Yesterday the librarian made a Starbucks run in the middle of the morning. What a treat! I sipped on my Cinnamon Dulce Latte during social studies, while my students eyed it with envy. I managed to make it last until after lunch! This afternoon as I sipped my DnD French vanilla, I thought longingly of yesterday's Cinnamon Ducle Latte.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

SOLS 10 of 31

A few weeks ago I accepted a position for next year teaching high school at a small Christian school in Maine. We told our family right away, and I told my co-workers, but I hadn't told my students yet. I've been praying about how and when to tell them. I didn't want to tell them right away because we just had a teacher leave mid-year and I'm not leaving until the school year finishes. At the same time, I didn't want to wait too long because I wanted them to hear it from me, not through the grapevine. This week my husband made inquires into jobs in Maine. We're still waiting to hear back, but it is highly likely that he will get a job and move before I'm done with the school year. At breakfast this morning, it came to me. Today was the day to tell them. And I knew how I'd tell my 8th graders.

Before we started class, I told them we had a couple of business items to take care of. I explained how I'd wanted to wait to tell them this but that I wanted them to hear it from me so I was telling them now.

"You know how you guys are graduating from here and going off to high school next year? Well, I'm graduating and going to high school, too."

It took them a minute to process, and then the questions came. We had a quite a few laughs about me wearing a graduation robe with them and several started trying to figure out how they were going to convince their parents to let them move to Maine with me. There were some tears and hugs, but a lot of joy.

I was more concerned about telling my 7th graders, but it went well. They were a little shocked, but they asked many good questions and gave me a chance to explain what my new job will be like.

It's such a relief that it is common knowledge now, and I actually felt like my 7th graders responded better to me today. Perhaps they were feeling that they didn't want to waste the time they have with me by being overly obnoxious. I wonder if that will continue through the rest of the year!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

SOLS 9 of 31

There seems to be a lot of scary, sad news these days, and I'm not even talking about world events. I have two friends who are going through surgery right now. One had a brain tumor removed yesterday and another is currently in surgery for a badly broken arm. I have students who are going through divorce. I just read a news article about a family in Pennsylvania who lost their home and 7 children between the ages of 7 months and 11 years old in a fire last night. My heart is heavy and my prayers are fervent for these and other situations. Yet, I'm feeling very grateful this evening. Things are going well at school. There are some very promising job prospects for my husband and he got a clean bill of health at his yearly physical today. Our parents are in good health, as are our siblings and nieces and nephews. God is good.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SOLS 8/31

Z sat staring at the papers on his desk. He had done his homework the night before; a one page slice of life story sat on the desk beside his yellow writing pad. I was just happy he'd done the story. I wasn't going to nit-pick his lack of following directions (1 1/2-2 pages, double spaced, on the yellow lined paper). I had taken the class through the exercise of identifying sensory details or places where sensory details could go and set them to the task of revising/rewriting their stories. But still, Z sat. After the second or third time I went to help him, after more of his classmates had finished their revisions and were moving on to the next part of class, I tried one more time to help him.

"I know you're a good writer. You write wonderful, creative, fun stories and poems all the time. What is keeping you from getting it from your head onto your paper?"

He looked at me wide eyed and shook his hand in front of me, as if the appendage had a mind of it's own. "This! My hand."

"Okay. Well, how are we going to get past this block?"

"I don't know. I can do made- up stories easy. It's when I have to write about real life, that I get stuck. I mean, if this was a story about my super-powered Granma fighting the evil oven monster instead of telling about getting home from school to find my granma cleaning the oven, I'd be fine."

"That's it!" I cried. "That's the story you write! Super-granma vs. the evil oven monster!"

Z laughed so hard, I thought he was going to fall out of his chair. He really liked that idea. I left him chuckling and went to help another student. Several minutes later, when we transitioned to the grammar lesson, Z hadn't moved beyond his first sentence. The rest of the class handed in their revisions and we started reviewing linking verbs. After school, when Z was with me for part of the after-school homework session, he still hadn't finished his story. When it was time for his ride to leave he had only a few more sentences written.

I was so delighted at that moment in class when we discovered the story that needed to be told. The one that only Z could tell in his unique style. I thought I'd finally found the switch with him. I thought, now he'll get his writing done. But so far, this story does not have a feel-good- this - is -how-it-works- for- the -ones -who- write- the-teaching- books ending.

Monday, March 7, 2011

SOLS 7/31

I don't know how others do it. I really don't. Today we got home at 5:30 and the last thing I wanted to do was cook dinner. But the hamburger HAD to be cooked and I had promised my husband that I would make a meatloaf, so I started in as soon as I got my coat off. Meatloaf is pretty easy. I don't mind making it. My husband chopped the onion and cut up the parsley, while I did everything else. Once I got the meatloaf in the oven, I started on the scallop potatoes. Thankfully, my husband washed up yesterday's dishes while dinner cooked and I hunted for the installation disk to the printer I had given a colleague.

Dinner was a little late, but a success. After cleaning up the kitchen and putting away left overs, it was nearly 8pm. I still needed to write my slice of life and do some lesson prep for tomorrow. Really, I don't know how people who have children or second jobs do it. God bless you!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

SOLS 6/31 So Many Books, So Little Time

Today as I corrected papers, I listened to Matched by Ally Condie. As an aside, if you've read The Giver by Lois Lowery, you really should read Matched. There are interesting parallels. I'm enjoying the story. At one point the narrator talks about how the society had been overloaded by technology and information so they decided to limit what was available. Committees sorted through everything and selected 100 songs, 100 poems, 100 painting, etc that would be the only ones to survive. An interesting concept. How do you choose?

Just yesterday coming home from the library John I were talking about how there is so much information available. There are so many books. I often get overwhelmed. I keep hearing about new books that catch my interest. My bank account could never support my book interest. I'm so thankful for the public library. I'm so thankful for print books and ebooks and audio books. I just wish I had more time to read.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

SOLS 5/31

I look at the clock and wonder where my Saturday went. I slept in this morning; it was much need after the first week back from vacation and pretty much every night I was up until at least 10:30. I sat at the breakfast table talking and reading with my husband; a weekend ritual we both enjoy. We just made it to the library to return the movie and books that were due today. I went grocery shopping. I checked email. Now the day is over. I still have laundry to do, a stack of papers to correct, and lessons to prepare for next week.

But day light is lasting longer, the sun is stronger, the air a bit warmer. Spring is on its way, and with it the promise of warm afternoons on the back steps watching the birds, open windows, and flowers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

SOLS 4/31

I did my first ever Skype visit last night. I've Skyped with author Kate Messner twice, but both times she and my students did most of the talking. I wasn't center stage. Last night was a parents meeting at the high school where I'll be teaching next year. The principal wanted to introduce me and have me explain the changes we are making in the curriculum. I had written a letter, which he gave the parents, but he had me Skype in. I could see him, and they had me projected up on a large screen, but I couldn't see the 30-40 people that where there (at least that's how many he told me he was expecting). It was a little surreal. I was nervous, but it went alright. Today I realized that what I was nervous about was the fact that this would be my first impression on these parents. The principal emailed me last night and said he thought it went well, the parents were impressed, and he was getting good feedback. What a relief! I'm really looking forward to meeting people in person, though!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

SOLS 3/31

This morning as I drove into work I had the rare opportunity to listen to NPR. I used to listen to NPR all the time, but since my husband and I have been commuting together, we don't usually listen to the radio. We enjoy talking with each other or enjoy the companionable silence. Today I had to stay through for an open house in the evening, so we took both cars to work. They were doing a piece on the current budget crises in public schools. This morning featured Providence, Rhode Island, and Detroit, Michigan. Providence has terminated all of their teachers, and Detroit is looking an numerous things including closing half of their schools. It made me sad and grateful. I'm sad at how this is going to impact those dedicated, talented teachers who love their jobs and their kids and are fighting an up-hill battle to begin with. I'm sad at how this is going to impact the kids, especially those who are already struggling and are on the path to dropping out, even at an early age. I almost drove off the road when the journalist reported that Detroit had talked about increasing class size to 60 kids. I wanted to cry for the teachers who had to even hear that they might be faced with that.

So many times I get into a grass is greener on the other side attitude. I get frustrated with the struggle for money that my little private school is constantly in the middle of. I get frustrated with not having the budget for new books or technology. Hearing the news story this morning made me grateful for what I have. I know that as tight as things are, right now they are not going to be letting the entire staff go, so that they don't have to pay the ones who have been there the longest more, or tell me that my class is going to grow to an unmanageable size where I won't be able to get to know my kids, let alone give them the individual attention they need.

I am grateful that I can laugh with my kids when they make jokes while working on their social studies projects. I am grateful that they come to me and ask to rewrite a paper that they got a low grade on, and that they know I can and will take the time with them to help them improve their writing.

This is a tough calling we teachers answer, and it seems like it just keeps getting tougher. So tonight my prayers are with those teachers and students in Providence and Detroit, and towns and cities everywhere that are facing difficult, even scary situations.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SOLS 2/31

I find myself frequently despairing at the low level of my 7th graders writing ability and even their thinking ability some days. So many times it feels like I am beating my head against a wall. Or perhaps a better metaphor is trying to move a donkey. They just don't want to put out any effort to do better. After grading a stack of papers that were barely a paragraph in length, many not even on topic, when they were supposed to be at least a page in length, it was such a relief to read C's paper that was a well structured, clearly defined opinion, three paragraphs in length. Ahh. Thank you!

It's those little things I need to look for to help keep my sanity and remember that I really do love these kids. I need those things to keep me from wanting to beat them with a noodle or give them a firm shaking. And as I thought about how frustrating they can be, I remembered the moment in grammar this morning when we were reviewing active and passive voice. The exercise required that we make the sentence passive by placing the receiver in the subject position. One sentence read: "My mother washed the windows." I walked them through the sentence:
"What is the verb?"
"Who is doing the washing?"
"What is being washed?"
"Okay, now if we put the receiver in the subject position, how does the sentence read?"
"The windows washed my mother." replied one boy.

We burst out laughing. "Wow, D." I said. "Those are some pretty incredible windows at your house!"

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

SOLS 1/31- The Gift of Writing

The air radiates with excitement as the students filter into the room. The first day back after a break is always filled with anticipation. Everyone is eager to share their stories, to tell tales of trips taken, illnesses endured, or sleepovers attended. I step into my classroom that is alive with energy and chatter. You might not think that seven mild-mannered eighth grade girls can make much of a ruckus, but believe me they can!

B excitedly shows me the dvd of trip photos, "There's a lot of them, can we look at them at lunch?" and the box of Pony Tails saltwater taffy from Chintoteague Island that she has brought for the class, "We can have them at snack. Oh, and I got you something; its on your desk."

I love teacher gifts, especially when they are from the heart. I go over to my desk. Sitting neatly atop a stack of books is a beautiful blue and green journal with subtle flower designs, a Celtic looking cross, and the word, "Hope" on the cover.

"Thank you, B! I love it!" I give her a hug before thumbing through it. Right away I see that she has written in it; a little poem and a note. Another hug accompanies her explanation that she had seen the journal in a store and knew immediately that she had to get it for me.

I'm very picky about what I use for a writer's notebook; it has to have just the right look and feel. I don't know what I'm looking for until I see it and hold it in my hand. This little notebook is definitely one that I will enjoy filling with thoughts, experimenting with words.

"Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I love to read
because of you."