Friday, March 31, 2017

Food for Thought: Feeding the Writer

This is my sixth time that I have completed the SOLSC.  What does that mean?  I wrote each day for 31 days straight.  I devoted at least an hour to making this happen.  As part of the SOLSC community, I commented on a minimum of three other writers each day too.  During this sixth go-around, I never felt stressed that I wouldn't get a post done.  During my 1st year, I always did.  The hard part is carving the path.  The last five years I have been easier because I know I can finish. I likened it to my first half marathon.  I have done one so I know I could do one.  The difference between SOLSC and a half is that I have no intention of ever doing one again.  I will, however, be back next year.

I love reading other teacher-writers.  I follow my friends and throughout the years various friends have joined the challenge.  I also love to read other people I perhaps will never meet, but their words connect us.  Their words inspiration me to write. Their words teach me about the writing craft.

I also love who stops by.  I don't specifically write for an audience. I am always surprised by who reads my blog and lets me know face-to-face how my words resonate with them.  There are also the likes on Facebook, the comments here and there by friends whom I haven't seen for years.  There are comments by people in the SOLSC whom I never have and never will meet.  I appreciate your time and response.

As I think about what is next for me as a writer, I have to challenge myself. The past year (2016) ended up being my least bountiful writing year. I know why. I have to work my writing muscles like I do my other muscles. All March, I kept thinking about how to keep the writing momentum going. Perhaps my themed posts will be a better way for me to write more consistently this year.  My short-term goal is a post each week.

Thanks for taking time to read my posts.  Thanks for the hosts of the SOLSC for committing weekly to this community and dedicating yourself to March for both teacher-writers and student-writers. It matters! It makes a difference!  Thank you most of all for feeding me as a writer and as a teacher of writers.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

3 Questions They Didn't Answer in the College of Education

The amazing thing about teaching is the learning curve. This is my 24th year teaching and I still learn each and every day.  As I tell my teachers in training, there is so much to learn, you won't get it all in college nor in your first year of teaching or even upon your years of teaching.  You will never arrive; you only evolve.

What do you do when a student has a seizure in your class?  My instinct  was to responses- call the nurse or jump across the desk to catch her.  Fortunately a colleague who knew what to do, was in the room and was closer to the student.  He saved her from a possible concussion.  He knew that we needed to immediately start timing it. He knew exactly how the student needed to be treated. It was serendipity, the time that this teacher, an ESE teacher, just happened to stop by. Now I know what to do--I learned that this week.

How do you carry on with your class after you lose a student?  Sadly I've only had this happen once and that is one too much.  About 5 years ago, my principal came to see me after school. She asked me about one of my students and his mindset.  The initial thought was that he committed suicide.  He didn't. The parents courageously shared that he did due to autoerotic asphyxiation.  I say courageous, because this most often is misreported as a suicide due to the nature of the death.   What we painfully learned was how a class moves forward when we lose a valued member.  It is especially tough because counselors were there only one day.  We began to move forward the next day. Each of his 7 teachers did it differently.  It was a tough journey; I hope to never have to do that again.

How can we best serve our students, when the things we take for granted, are alien to our student's experiences?  Students come to school and we truly are flying blind as Chris Crutcher has eloquently shared.  Some of my students are homeless.  We learn about the statistics in the books, but then we are confronted with reality, their stories,  When parents don't show up, it doesn't mean they don't care.  It means that they are sometimes taking care.  I found that, as most teachers also have, keeping food, toiletries and even clothes in my classroom can be a difference maker.  There are real reasons why kids don't have their paper and pencil each and every day. We shouldn't let those be become obstacles to learning.  This was one of my first lessons when I first started teaching ELLs students in 1993.

Sadly these circumstances for some of our most fragile students has not changed over the tenure of my work nor will my opportunities to learn from my work cease.  What has changed is my ability to take what I have learned in the moment and better serve my students.  What have you had to learn in the teaching moment?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Eye Spy: Sunset Celebration

When my family gets together at the beach whether on the east or west coast of Florida, we celebrate the sunset.  Enjoy our pictures from our last celebration.
    King of the Beach aka the Blue Heron
    White Sugar Sand Dunes at Grayton Beach-
    formerly the Appalachian Quartz found on a Georgia/South Carolina
    mountain top around 20,000 years ago.
    Looking for the quick green flash that occurs right
    as the sunsets on the horizon that is the light refracts.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Random Rambling

Stuck! I have writer's block today.  Really I have no idea what to write about because the two things on my mind that I could possibly write about are not ready to be written.  Plus I have spent a lot of time over the past two days being on the computer a lot at work and I just don't want to be on it.

After spending time in a relatively cool zone of Florida during break last week, I am not enjoying this sudden early heat.  We are supposed to get up to 94 degrees tomorrow.  My husband and I have had this competition since we have been together for past twentyish years about who breaks down and turns the AC on first.  We have gone to June 14th once, but each year it seems to get early and early.

I workout year round outside and we normally have a gradual entry into the late day heat, but today was a tough tough workout due to the heat.  My calves were cramping up early and often.  I should have paid better attention as they cramped a little last night in my sleep.  I will do better tomorrow. That is the grace that I give myself.  Tomorrow is my workout rest day so that will be a tiny reprieve to hydrate and potassiate (yes- I made that word up- something I like to do).

My daughter made the track team again. She dropped 36 seconds off of her 800 time.  I love that her team practices in the morning.  This way it doesn't disrupt our busy afternoon schedule- ballet two times a week, student council once a week and garden club once a week.  It is also cooler and her middle school doesn't start until 9:30 so I think it is an effective use of their morning time.  The only drawback is that all of her track meets are on Wednesdays and I work.  Therefore I will only see her run once.  I rely on her dad to be the sole supporter there.

Wednesdays have been his gig for the past ten years as I work.  We share the ballet work on Mondays and Fridays.  I do school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Sundays.  Saturdays are the Family Fundays where he might take her to the library or we do an outdoor trip. I get the drudgery of shopping with her, but I most prefer shopping for her.  Shockingly she still will wear clothes I just buy for her. We both enforce the chores.  It works for us.

So my antidote to a little writer's block is just a little random rambling.  Slice 28 is done.

What do you do when you have writer's block?

Monday, March 27, 2017

What I'm Reading/Digesting Right Now

The way I read professional books it takes me longer to read/digest them.  I can easily finish other books over the course of a week or two, but I savor my professional books.  It takes me a few months to really read, practice and then reflect.   What I am currently savoring is Kristen Hawley Turner and Troy Hicks Argument in the Real World and .Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts book,  Power Up, as we have moved to 1:1 at all the high schools in my district this year.

What I love about these books are the teacher voices and student voices that are present throughout the pages.  I also love that both authors have a live site (ARW and PU) to to take your thinking beyond the pages. Also the authors are accessible via Twitter.  Some of my teachers in training have tweeted questions out to Troy Hicks and he has responded. Jen Roberts is available in the Twitterverse as well sending out resources too.  It keeps my learning live.

My learning with these books didn't occur in a vacuum or in isolation of solely between pages. There was a reading lineage or journey that I took to get there.  I represented it in my Piktochart above. My instructional practices built on what I had learned before.   Another step in my learning about teaching is to avoid getting overwhelmed by the presented perfected practice in these books. This is part of the reason I savor the work,  so I can try and process one new strategy at a time.  I can implement their ideas in a way that makes sense for my students as well as reflect on my mistakes or successes.  This is an invaluable process in my teaching practice to grow my teacher self.

  How do you work to grow yourself professionally?  What are you reading or trying now?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Seven

Taking time each week to reflect on the goodness.

7.  Access and opportunity to enjoy Florida's spring weather.  The Florida State Park systems has carved out oases for residents and visitors to enjoy.  Park systems at all levels are valuable to our country and our lifestyle.  Everything that is good about our country can't be captured at a theme park. We all need a little more Vitamin N in our lives and park systems near and far afford us that opportunity.

6.  Sunset celebration for three nights in a row on the west coast of Florida.  Although only one night afforded us the actual opportunity to see the sunset.  The ritual of riding our bikes to the beach to watch the sunset as well as looking for the green flash and the riding back in the gloaming was part of what made our family vacay memorable.  

5.  Hanging out with my nephews.  Each day we kayaked, paddle boarded, played in the sand, jumped into the surf, biked, threw the frisbee and burnt marshmallows.  You can leave things behind, but experiences stay with you.

4.  My designated driver aka my husband who takes the wheel on each of our trips.  This week it was our 6 hour drive to and from our spring beach vacay in the Panhandle.  I get to read while he drives.  I do pay attention a little to navigate.  He stops when we need to stop and he is only a little impatient at the end of our journey.

3. My sister gets extreme kudos for embracing camping as well as she has despite the bugs, the dirt, and this time, the rain.  My nephews love it!  I love making memories with them too as does her niece, my daughter. For our kids, we get out of our comfort zone.

2.  My daughter, now 13, still embraces camping.  She is able to disconnect from tech and be in the moment in the sand and surf and with the people. She still reaches for my hand when we go to sleep at night in the tent.  Camping lets her practice independence as well as stay connected with her family.

1.  My mom, now 70, camping with us too.  She has graduated from a tent to an RV, but it plays backup during inclement weather and is a base-camp for friends and family alike.  I love that we can explore different places as a family.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spring into Saturday: Grayton Beach State Park

 Looking for a destination vacation? Grayton Beach State Park is the place to be if you like sugar sand and turquoise waters. If the water is just right, you can snorkel out 750 feet to the man-made turtle reef. This beach is more remote and less crowded than the other beaches in South Walton. 

It isn't just for the beach crowd.  You can bike or hike. Two freshwater lakes are ideal for paddleboarding or kayaking. Rentals are readily available. Kids can roam the woods.  If all that is too much, just hang out in a hammock to nap or read. It is an affordable place with camping sites available for about $25.
What makes this state park ideal is that it is situated between Destin and Seaside beach communities in the Panhandle. If you have someone who likes civilization, you can ride your bike to Seaside and grab lunch, dinner or a cocktail. Seafood, Gulf shrimp or oysters, however, is this region's specialty so most restaurants like the Shrimp Shack are ready to serve you a dozen or two raw. There is also a thriving community of artists and other shopping too. 


If you are looking for a way to disconnect and relax, make plans to head to one of my favorite new places to camp.