Sunday, October 28, 2012

October DSMA Blog Post

I love the DOC. I spend 20-30 minutes once every three months with my amazing HCP, but the DOC is a community that supports me daily. I question, I listen, and I learn. I have learned more in the past 6 months participating in the DOC than I have in the three and half years pre-DOC. Here are the top three things that I have learned and think my HCP could learn as well..

1. Living with this disease each day is not as black and white as you make it out to be.
The DOC helps me with the day-to-day work that living with this disease takes. You can treat me medically by changing my dosage during my visits, but my visits should be more than a three month data check-in. Listen to my concerns and help me figure out a path. I have been working on re-integrating exercise into my life for two years now. I still don't have a clear plan for dealing with lows and timing. I've even read Colberg's Diabetic Athlete Handbook. It's frustrating to negotiate these challenges on my own. When I tell you that every time I play ultimate, my blood sugar rises, it does. You have to help me figure that out, not dismiss it like it doesn't happen. That is what the DOC does, it validates my every day experiences.

2. Everyone has a story and it is as important as their numbers.
 Don't judge me by my A1C. A number doesn't define who I am as a diabetic. What I love and learn from the DOC are the stories. People in the DOC have varying levels of experience and expertise. We share a common goal, to live a rich healthy long life despite the obstacles of managing our disease. Our stories shared in 140 micro-bites on Twitter or longer in blog posts reveal the uniqueness of our journey and provide guide points toward the steps we choose to take each day. I hope you learn to take time to hear my story too. The data points that I share with you are superfluous without my story.

3. I am a work-in-progress managing my disease. 
 We all are works-in-progress to quote my mentor, Dr. Janet Allen. You, as an HCP, are a work-in-progress helping me managing my disease. What you knew yesterday may not help me today. The DOC opens up a world larger than textbooks. I can sit side-by-side with people when they are at professional conferences and we can link into research that would be inaccessible 10 years ago. The DOC provides efficient timely access to information that matters most to me. Some of it might matter to you too.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

National Day on Writing

Gallery of Student Writing
What do you write?  As an English teacher and a teacher of teachers, I write every day.  I don't always write for myself, unfortunately, and when I write,  I don't always publish it on my blog.  I write, however, knowing that I am a model, a model for my student writers and for future teachers of writers. I write, knowing, my daughter is often looking over my shoulder and I am her model too.

6/2011-6/2012 Work Journals
I don't always share my work. Publishing is a tricky process for me.  My work journals leave a road map of the decisions made and ideas shared.  It often becomes an important reference tool over time.  No one needs to see these notes, but they help me keep the destination in sight.  Depending on my time and state of mind, I share my writing in virtual spaces. I micro-write---lines on Twitter or Facebook with the expectation that someone will read it and respond.  Time permitting or thoughts burning, I write longer and publish it here.  People don't always comment on a blog, but I see their tracks.  I like to think that my words moved people, personally or professionally.  

My husband writes and draws to entertain. I write about my life to reveal my "life as it happens." (a line stolen from NPR today)  I write to process my work with teaching and learning, reading and writing, and teens. I write to document and think through my every day challenges of managing a chronic disease. I write mostly to provide hope.  Hope for myself and maybe for others on their journey.  Wherever or whatever, I write, my words are fingerprints that mark who I am or where I was on my journey.As I look back, I can see that the work doesn't get easier, but I get better, which is why "What I Write" matters.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Fairy Invasion

If you work in a high school, you know that Halloween is not the only day of the year that you can continue to dress up as an adult.  There is always Homecoming week.  What I love about Homecoming week is planning a surprise for students.  We started a few years ago with a Super Teacher shirt that my husband made for us on our back porch single color screen press.  (Umm, yes, we have a single color T-shirt press on  my back porch, one of the benefits of marrying an artist, I suppose!)  I just give him a concept and he fleshes it out.   We resurrected our shirts and silver sequined capes this year for twin day.  But this year we added the book fairy a costume inspired by pin on Pinterest as our surprise for "Out of this World" day.

My husband the artist designed a prototype wing after I showed him the pictures.  Each teacher built their set of wings using a book cover, dictionary pages, double-stick tape, and  designed duct tape.  We had a team building aka costume design session after school on Tuesday.  Most of us should have been grading papers and uploading them for progress reports.  In fact, I told my college students that I didn't quite finish grading all of their papers this week because I needed to work on my book fairy costume. They agreed with me, that my time was well-spent making the costume.

 After walking around the halls and delivering books to classrooms today, I wholeheartedly agree. My mentor, Janet Allen, would always share Margaret Mooney's quote, "Books that we share with students should always have charm, magic, impact, and appeal."  Today reading and English teachers reminded students of the charm and magic of reading brings as evident by the joy and smiles the students' faces when the book fairies invaded the Creek.  A day filled with impact and appeal.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Summer Ball 8th Grade
Happy 40th Birthday Title IX! You are only two years younger than me, but your birth has impacted not only my life, but all women in this country. The passage of this law is one of the most beneficial lasting acts of the Nixon presidency in 1972. I was 2 when it was born. I have been actively involved in sports since I first played soccer on boys' team when I was in 5th grade over 32 years ago. To give younger readers' perspective, I played sports before sports bras were sold. Note: Active women through-out history have sought different ways to bind themselves. Women were always active and playing sports before Title IX, but they didn't receive the support on an equal basis as men. Names such as Babe Didrikson and Wilma Rudolph are celebrated female athletes who persevered in sports before the passage of Title IX, but lesser known females paved the way for all of us as well.

My grandmother was a competitive swimmer and she was unable to continue at college since the predominant belief during that time was that women didn't need a college degree. In fact, she had to give up her job with AT&T due to the company policy's about married women. My mom played basketball and volleyball. When my mom talked to me about playing basketball, she often talked about how some positions on the court weren't allowed to cross the half-court line. The rules were different and they didn't need to be. My mom still was a fit-role model my entire life by jogging, taking aerobics, and roller-blading. Now in her sixties she swims and bikes. My aunt played basketball and tennis in college. Scholarships didn't exist and her team was lucky to have funding. Later she coached women's basketball and I remember traveling with her basketball team when I was little. Her players managed a dual role of cheerleader for the boys and then played basketball themselves. She too has stayed active her entire life as well. She hikes, bikes, and walks a tenacious 6-8 mile trek almost daily.

I played basketball, soccer, volleyball, and softball growing up. Later I played ultimate Frisbee and still do recreationally on a co-ed team. I work on strength training in gladiator camp and on my cardio by walking\running 3-5 miles as often as possible. Female athletics matters, not just for the competition, but by developing women who will engage in activities toward the pursuit of life-long fitness. It matters. This pursuit is something I hope to pass to my daughter as she swims and dances. Movement matters.

Women's athletics is only one of the ares that Title IX covers. Its reach extends to higher education, employment and other aspects of life. The greatest impact on my life with Title IX is that it has allowed me to to play sports. In the long run, the passage of Title IX is about staying active for as long as possible and the friendships I have that were deepened by our experiences playing together on a team. Everyone knows that support matters.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Vacation At Last!

I will be jumping into the springs as often as I can!
Vacation at last!  Technically I didn't have to work today and I don't for the rest of the summer!  Those of you who aren't teachers are thinking enviously that teachers have the summer off!  If you live with an educator, you know that isn't true.  If you don't, you should know that most educators will be working for free for many days this summer. If you are a teacher, you already know you do.  

My summer to-do list includes designing the schedule for the 1500 students who must take reading.  This monumental task involves determining their placement as well as ensuring that the each reading teacher will have a decent schedule. I don't want to estimate the days it will take. It also includes facilitating a two-day reading retreat for teachers at my school.  They have decided to come together before school starts to plan our year and improve our understanding  of the small group infrastructure that our district is mandating for all secondary reading classrooms.  Previously I have been able to pay them; in these fiscal times it is not an option.  We have discovered that teaching is easier when we can do this summer work together for pay or no-pay.  It matters.  I will spend at least 2-3 days planning the retreat for my teachers.

The district also requires the reading coach to attend Common Core training for 4 days and I may have to pay for it, a mere $25 dollars, quite cheap compared to other professional learning opportunities that are paid from my pocket.  Of course, I have the added price tag of the childcare that I will actually need for those 4 days.  Maybe I will take her with me.  As the new instructional management system champion, I will also be required to go to training for a day in August. I will be paid, not at my hourly rate, but it should cover daycare.  As I consider this and understand that many people work outside their contractual hours in many fields, I can't help but wonder what is the price tag of this free labor?  We often place the value of mothers who stay at home in the six-figure range.  I am too busy doing the work to take the time to calculate.

In your mind, you are probably saying don't do it.  I can't. I know the impact and the havoc unscheduled kids and unhappy teachers will wreck in the fall.  Struggling readers and their hard-working teachers need to have smooth start to their academic year; they need the least chaos attached to their academic lives.

The good news is that I will do the work on my terms. I will, however, continue to be a truth-teller. If we don't open our classroom doors and our ever-busy teaching lives to the public, no one will be the wiser.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My T3 Hero

Who is your hero?  I've celebrated  my community previously in other blogs, but today I am taking time out to celebrate an unsung hero in my life, my husband, my partner in sickness and health.  My favorite definition of partner is either of two people who dance together.  I often joke that I married my husband because he dances. (which is only partially true)   I realized early in life that dancing is an integral component to celebrating life.You don't have to actually dance with me, but you do have to dance.  It is even now more important as he gets ready to dance with my daughter in her recital and as we continue the rest of our life together in this dance with diabetes.

I am not aware of many men who will get up at 5:30 every morning to make their wife breakfast and lunch.He does. I have all these food rules now which he adheres to including a fresh chop, no soggy bread, and no microwaved anything. Miraculously, my hero manages to get me out the door with breakfast and lunch by 6:15 every day for the last two years.  His commitment has made my morning sugars level out.   This matters.  One of many reasons he is my hero.  Now if we could work in a little more dancing, life would just be perfect.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Snapshots

Our dblog challenge today is to tell it in pictures, what does diabetes look like. All of these pictures were taken while I was under the influence of insulin.  Just press play.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

What You Need to Know

I can never escape my reality. NEVER!  That's what people should know. I can't drink it away, eat it away, or run it away.  I never get a personal day, a vacay.  No one with a chronic condition can afford it.  Wearing a pump is awesome because I have some levels of freedom. But I also have the ability to monitor myself every five minutes and can see the immediate effects of life choices.  And they are life choices that I make each moment.  Maybe that's why I confront life head on, I just don't have time to play.

You should also know that:

1. This disease is expensive to manage.
2. Obamacare makes me sleep better at night because I would still be insurable.
3.  I can eat sugar, frankly its about the carbs.
4.  Managing this disease is an art not just a science. (Stolen from Marzano)  Even my endo knows that.
5.  When I tell my medical practitioners about my disease, LADA, I am their teacher.
6.  Most of the time I can manage just fine; the other times I am just pretending that its easy.
7.  Getting out of routine, unplanned random acts of eating or last minute work\events you might want me to do,
     not so good for me.
8.  I won't say yes as often and don't be mad when I don't drop everything for you.
9.  I don't have what your friend, sister or grandparents have.
10.  Sad that it took a disease to help me figure out what is really important.

In spite of it all, I have a joyful life with my family and a community of friends, co-workers, and teammates who put up with me.  Who could ask for more?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fantasy Device

A want, a desire, a obvious yearning might be for a closed loop system, but researchers are working on it.  I truly long for dia-athletic clothing, not technically a device. I might be sick, but I can still play.  Last weekend I just put in such a request with my cousin who is will be studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan in the fall.  I asked Kelsey to design some sporting accessories\clothing for pump wearing female athletes like me.  (Proud of you Kelsey for pursuing your dreams!)  
Snorkeling in Alaska

For the female athlete, I would like a sports bra that allows you to wear your pump on your back with a neoprene case or something to protect it.  I have pieced together such a device.  I can't sew, but have enough skills to make it work. If someone could sew it for me, wow, we might have an awesome product. Just wondering who thought that wearing your pump between your breasts in middle of your sports bra was an ideal design?  Have you ever dove for a volleyball? Laid out for a frisbee? The equipment gets in the way. Other bra designs that I have checked out have you put your pump under your arm.  Sounds a little off balance to me.  Have you ever tried running this way? I have. It doesn't work for the long haul.  Right now, I just make do.

Which gets me to my next issue, bathing suits. The sole reason that I picked my Animas Ping was due to the fact that it can stay in water for 24 hours at a certain depth. I haven't had to do that lately, but who knows.  I live in Florida and often joke that I am part mermaid. If I don't spend time in the water at least once a week, my brain begins to shrivel.   In the summer, it's time for spring hopping. I spend at least one day a week in a spring snorkeling or floating in 72 degree water. I spend just as much time in the ocean.  I love body surfing and boogie boarding and this summer after about 20 years may try to pick up surfing again.  I know I complained about the sports bra and having to put your pump between your breasts, but I would like a bathing suit in which I could swim or surf carefree with my pump. 

Certain bathing suits are definitely out. No V-Necks, there is not safe place for the pump. No tankinis---the exposed leash, a dangerous situation.  I love my modest one-piece Speedo with a square neckline, I have one in every color.  The shelf bra and the extra material are perfect for  keeping my pump safe in the water.  But I have some design ideas.  Have you ever tried to gracefully unhook your pump in order to go in and out of the water? We need a fix there.  Did you know that your infusion site can get clogged up with sand in rough water if you take your pump off?  (Yeah, that's what those two pink things are for that come in every box of infusion sets). I would love to surf and swim without being afraid of my pump being lost at sea.  I don't have that peace of mind.  For once, I would love that peace of mind.  I have enough worries while in the water.  What do I do if I go low?  Is my insulin getting hot?  Will someone steal my pump if I leave it on shore?  A million worries circle through my brain.

Call me shallow, but it is all about the work out clothing for me as I head into summer.  While I am waiting for my fantasies to come true, I won't stop living actively.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Blueberries for the picking in Florida. 
The D-Blog insists upon a reveal today, a reveal of our weaknesses or the flip-side of Tuesday's entry, one thing to improve rather than celebrate.  Wow! Really too many to count here.  I've overcome some small things like leaving my pump at home in the morning or not having the right parts in the right places at the right times.  Lately, I've been working with a nutritionist and a PA to work on my long-term goals or make improvements.

True major obstacle is figuring out how to manage my afternoon food issues.  Breakfast and lunch go well; I eat at 6:30 am and lunch at 10:30 am with both meals prepared for me by my husband. These meals are perfect and my blood sugar response is close to perfect.   I Am Literally Starving by Three, maybe a little hyperbole, but the afternoon is my trouble zone. Maybe it is the variability in my schedule, sometimes meetings, sometimes working out, or sometimes in a car racing somewhere.  When my world is sane and I am not thinking with my stomach, a quick snack (15 carbs) and workout after school temper these issues.  Otherwise, I end up scavenging as my office, classroom or car which are not always set up for the perfect snack.  Sometimes snacks left in those places mysteriously disappear.  Does that happen in all work spaces? Just wondering!

In a perfect world, I know I must eat dinner before six and no eating after 7 and have a planned snack at 2:30 before I am starving. In the real world, I am not as perfect as I want to be.  Fortunately, the first key to solving this problem is recognizing it.  Yeah! I've done that and now you know it too. Another step is getting help.  I have a nutritionist who is working with me to combat these troubling times. She has many suggestions, perhaps the plain Greek yogurt with blueberries and walnuts can turn up more often at snack time rather than at breakfast.  She suggests almond butter and tofu, but a variety of food options isn't really my problem. It is portability and reliability. What can stand the heat in my car all day?  (For example, good for me Justin's classic PB gel packs with crackers).  What can I eat in my car on my marathon 16 hour days heading from one job to the next?  (Fast food not an option!) Where can I hide things to make sure that they are there later or when I need them?

I know I can't make changes without a goal, support, and check-ins aka progress monitoring in the teacher world. I have these in place. The next step is practice and more practice.   If you reading this and have an idea or a suggestion...feel free to help me out! I would certainly love to your advice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tooting My Horn

Sectionals, 2009, Insulin Pump on My Back, Catch For a Score
Celebrating what I consistently do or in my words "Am great at" is the topic of today's d-blog!   Staying active has always been a part of my life since my mother first enrolled me in swim lessons at nine months old, ballet at 3, gymnastics at 10, and then soccer in 5th grade, the only girl on a boys' team.  Later I played volleyball, basketball, softball, and track.  In college, I continued to play volleyball. My late twenties led me to ultimate frisbee and I have been playing that for over fifteen years.

At the time of my diagnosis, I had been running up to 5 miles a day and playing ultimate frisbee.  But all of that stopped.  It was, as I have shared in a previous blog, scary to be dropping to a 42 in the middle of a run and making a 911 call to your husband to bring you a coke. It was embarrassing to eat candy while working out at the gym.  It was frustrating to realize to realize that I could just die while doing the one thing I loved and knew would help me live life longer. I let that sideline me.

Last May, I said, "Screw it!"  I won't get well if I sit on the sidelines, so I jumped back in and began to play through the pain in my Achilles and the lurking fear manifested by my chronic illness.    I have been great at working out this year.  By the end of this school year I will log an average of 12 miles per week or 500 miles, maybe more since August.  I am proud of overcoming obstacles to stay active in my life.  In writing this post, I realized that I am consistent at facing the obstacles in my life and staying active has always been one way that I have worked to surmount them.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cultivating Friendships

In my professional life a community of colleagues sustain me and help me grow as a teacher.  In my personal life, my friends sustain me, but none offer me the unique perspective or growth opportunities to learn about living with my chronic disease.  I have plenty of friends and colleagues, but I have also been slowing growing my DLN, a diabetic learning network.  That network isn't too large.  I like to dip my feet in slowly.  For example, I started this blog over 13 months ago, but it wasn't until the 12th month that I actually started writing regularly.  Likewise, I researched my Honda Fit purchase for four years until I actually took the plunge.  I am a late adopter.  Although my initial diagnosis, LADA, was almost four years ago, I never actually met another type 1 diabetic until this past January, actually 2, my new PA, and one of my college students. Still these relationships aren't personal, they are professional.  I haven't been actively seeking anyone as a "friend." Though it has been refreshing to talk to people on a professional level who get it, I haven't found anyone on a personal face-to-face level who does.  Instead what I have discovered is a DLN, a diabetic learning network via Twitter and Blogging. Both give me enough distance and connectivity to dip my feet in slowly and make "friends."

My favorite space for discovering new friends is on Twitter.  Twitter is actually how I discovered more of my kind. I have been actively tweeting for about a year now even though I have been on Twitter for about 3 years. (Remember late adopter here!)  Twitter has helped me follow my professional rock stars---Kelly Gallagher, Jeff Anderson, Lee Ann Spillane, Diave Ravitch, Susan O'Hanian, and Stephen Krashen to name a few.  In the last few months, I have discovered friends and started building my DLN, new friends.  The first friend that I made is @ConnectinMotion.  Although CIM is located in Canada, I always look forward to the #MondayinMotion question that is posted. I participate knowing that my experiences as an athlete, coach, and now diabetic are valuable as well as the responses that others post are. CIM also helped me find a Chat devoted diabetes. These spaces are my "best friends."  I have been lurking on the Diabetes Social Media Advocacy Chat on Wednesday nights at 9 pm for the past two months. I think that I may have actually tweeted last week.  If you don't use Twitter, I suggest that you check it out as a potential friend.  Twitter led me to this Diabetes Blog Week Challenge.   I just finished a month-long Slice of Life Story Challenge which was hosted by Two Writing Teachers and just completed a 10-Day Slice of Life Story Challenge with my students so I knew that I could manage a week of a topic focused writing.

One of the blogs or new friends is Celine the blogger who writes Running on Carbs.  I love her focus.  Sometimes my endo looks at me strange when I tell him about how my sugars go crazy high when I play ulty. It is great to find other diabetic athletes on the web. Their story and struggles make me strong.  It reminds me of the importance of athletics in my life, but also that the constancy of my disease and its effects are manageable.  Another d-blog friend that I have discovered today is smartDpants. I was drawn to the title and the contents of her blog kept me there.  The pictures of juice boxes placed strategically in the car made me laugh, not a mom thing, but a d-thing.  By participating in Diabetes Blog Week, I hope to find more of my kind so that I can live, laugh, and learn, not just professionally or personally, but diabetically.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Falling Numbers

Although I have a chronic disease, one that I will manage for the rest of my long life, I am pretty lucky.  I have great health insurance that covers such things as a pump and a continuous glucose monitor, expensive tools to purchase and maintain. I won't go into the cost or thank Obamacare here since I moved out of the permanently uninsurable category four years ago.  Nobody teaches you that, about the importance of health insurance until you actually have a need for it. Then you figure it out quickly.

I also have been lucky to have a team of medical experts that I have been working with for over three years to help me manage, but that hasn't been enough. I had been lacking a great coach\mentor for this process. My team is responsive with listening and answering my questions, but they don't have all the answers.  I realize that great coaches don't have to play the sport to have insight, but those who have played the sport have insight that only playing the game will reveal.

Fortunately, my great coach, Mike, entered my my life in January 2012.  He is a PA, who not only has the same disease I have, but runs marathons. One of his specialties is diabetic athletes. You only have to listen to other Type 1s across the country to realize how rare he is.   He provides unique insight into aspects of my disease that my endo cannot provide.  My endo understands the science and treatment of my disease; Mike understands the art of living with it.

Mike works with me every six weeks to review my data, evaluate my progress, and reset my goals.  He is helping me reach my long-term goal. He understands the balance of managing the demands of work with the nature of the disease.  Many don't.  He understands the hard work and confusing results.  He understands how our work can be fraught with disappointment and how the science of our disease is actually not so perfect after all. He understands the life circumstances that might make you forget a critical step in your daily life...actually putting your pump on.  He understands that there is an art and a science to managing my disease.  Therefore when my numbers were down on my visit yesterday; he understood the cost of that achievement and the value of celebrating.  One of the few areas in life where lower scores matter most.

I'm lucky. I only have to participate in a few support groups or read the d-boards to figure out how lucky I am. I not only have a wonderful supportive community of my colleagues, friends and family, but I am also fortunate to have an expert coach mentor me through this tricky world.  

PS:  I celebrated by purchasing an expensive pair of running shoes at The Track Shack.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

42 is the Answer

 I have taken a brief hiatus from the blog, but am back for at least the weekly slice. Have been working explicitly on my personal goal of achieving a perfect 6 by my nephew's fourth birthday, a fourth for both of us.  We will celebrate together hopefully in August.  I have walked away from many obstacles including cake on my birthday today. Although I had started explicitly working on my health in August 2010, it took until April 2011 for the habits that I have firmly ingrained over the past year to stick.  This past week I celebrated reaching over 400 miles  that I have actually recorded since August 2011. My aim is to get to at least 600 by the end of the school year.  I have a little over 6 weeks to do that. I know I can. Lightening is the only obstacle that will keep me from heading out.  As my companera, Erin, says or my interpretation of what she says just tying your laces is the first step in any battle.   Every step is part of my battle.  This weekend kicked off with a rain-soaked Friday walk.    Saturday morning led my feet to Pappy's where I picked 8 pounds of blueberries and 5 pounds of strawberries. Some found their way into friends' hands; other found their way into the freezer.  I love  heading out to a U-Pick with my family. I think it is important for Hope to understand that food comes from some place, plus your hard work has a reward.

Early Sunday morning, my favorite outdoor time, was chilly and my feet moved quickly through Baldwin Park.  The otters stayed in this Sunday, not enough sun.  Monday and Tuesday were two days I didn't have it in me.  Each day after work one of my companeras was at my portable door, dressed and ready to go. I  confess, if they weren't there and ready to go, I would not have made it; found so many other things more important to do, but truly  less so.  The most important part of my life this year has been to slow down. Put one foot in front of each other. Keep my life simple and good.  And that at 42 is my answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tech Tuesday

I was innovating today and no one was there to capture it. Innovating success and epic fail, not just over the course of the day, but in one class period. Highs and lows are the inevitable experiences most teachers have during the course of an instructional day. The events in my 3rd period class today illustrate how precarious using technology in schools is, even though we are in the 21st century and cultivating 21st century learners. On my twitter feed, my PLN, I remember one person saying that teachers using technology in schools today are like wizards. We truly are.

 After the fake fire drill bell in second period, when I saw how fast my freshman could actually move, the real fire drill bell sounded in third period when most of my students were taking a quiz. Not a paper quiz, but using their cell phones via Socrative, my current favorite tech tool. I have been using Socrative for two months. It was introduced to me by a beginning math teacher at my school. He was struggling because he had issues related to discipline and usage, my problems have been with technology itself and actual access. 

Socrative allows students' cell phones to perform as an instant response system. I love it. My students have loved it. It is pretty easy to use. It isn't always stable. We don't have a 1:1 tech ratio in my classroom so students use my cell phone and share each other’s when we do individual responses. It is important to figure out how to use tech in a classroom, especially if you are in a school like mine where the media center and the labs are all closed for testing for most the fourth nine weeks. I love Socrative best for the collaborative quizzes where kids have a 1:3 ratio with their hardware. When that happens, we are covered and engaged. We only need 8 web-functional phones to do so including mine. When we use it as individuals, we have a piece of writing or reading that we do while waiting for our turn.

 When the fire drill bell rang today in the midst of our quiz, we made an executive decision to keep quizzing while heading out to the field. Kids were nervous at first, especially afraid that they would get in trouble for having their cell phones out. But they did it; they stayed in a group close to me. They kept testing. It was shocking to see the range of our Wi-Fi. It let us walk far out into the practice field behind our portables. Some teachers can't even get Wi-Fi in their classrooms since the walls are like concrete bunkers. We kept quizzing. Kids wandered over wondering we were doing. "Taking a quiz," said one of my students surprisingly happy. "Man, my teacher doesn't do that!" responded one of the kids.

 When we went back into the room, we walked by a dean and one of my students said, "Look Dean B, we have our cell phones out." He didn't jump to conclusions and gave the right answer, "I am sure that you are doing something educational with Dr. Scanlon." We got right back to the business of writing and quizzing and the power went out. All of our technology was down, the AC (90 degree weather in Florida now), lights, the document camera and projector. Amazingly the Wi-Fi was still up and students finished their quizzes or shared their phone with others so they could take it. We could still write. Without our document camera, I transferred the writing assignment to the board. No matter the conditions, I was able to keep an instructional flow. It's not always this easy

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Generated a tagxedo which captured the big ideas in my blog for this past month
Wow!  Made it through the Slice of Life Challenge!  It wasn't always easy.  The SOLC challenged hosted by the phenomenal women at was an incredible reminder of what it is like to be among a community of writers, just digitally.  I haven't lived that since my time in the National Writing Project at the University of Central Florida over ten years ago when I first meet Lee Ann who encouraged me to do this challenge with her. Having had her by my side in some many ways--parenting, writing, teaching and learning has pushed me professionally and personally. Thanks for that gift, especially bringing back the power of writing to me.

Over the past 31 days I have been thinking about how I sustain this habit. Writing daily is exercising, just for your mind instead of your heart, or maybe a little of both.  Writing is a way of processing life, work, reading, writing, thinking, parenting and just managing.  Writing and sharing my writing has unintended effects, such as inspiring other writers in my life, Jenny, Dale, and my daughter to name a few. 

Participating in the SOLC encouraged me to challenge to my students in May.  They need to feel the power of their words.  Participating made me realize that I need to keep writing.  I profess that I would rather read than write. I know that if I truly want to continue to cultivate writers or teachers of writers, I must keep writing.  Participating reminded me of the challenges that writers face daily.  It is not easy.

Ultimately I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who actually read my blog. Thank you for taking time out of your day to peek into mine.  Just liking, commenting, or stopping by, your visits mattered.  I didn't realize that it would. I had forgotten the power of an audience and the impact that readers have on a writer. It made me want to be better.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


Most people who know me know that my aunt was my fourth grade teacher.  For this and many other reasons, fourth grade was an amazing year as a learner for me. It wasn't like the one that I envision for my daughter if I continue to keep her in Florida public schools.  I imagine she will spend time preparing for FCAT Writes as well as FCAT reading and math.  She is already a writer.  She keeps pestering me to set up a blog for her.  Yesterday she started working on a post to be a guest writer on my blog.  She writes for real reasons, reasons that make sense to an eight-year, notes to friends, posters, a journal, and cards. 

In fourth grade my first piece of writing was published.  It was in the local paper, The Clay Today, and it was a letter asking the Iranians to release the American hostages.  I don't remember doing a graphic organizer.  The planning for that piece may have just been reading about the topic and possibly watching the news. I assume that I also developed background knowledge that summer by living in family housing with my mom in Alumni Village on  Pennell Circle at Florida State University.  A multi-ethnic community resided there including an Iranian couple who had come to America to go to graduate school.  I still can't find any eggrolls or wontons that match the ones sold by a Chinese woman who would come around every evening selling them door-to-door out of her bucket.  That summer provided me with enough experience to feed my writing.

As an adult, I realize that my teacher, Mr. Ritchie, had us write for an authentic purpose and audience.  This assignment in 1979  was from a teacher who understood the power of an audience, writing for real people, not just writing for him.  It was an assignment that connected students to the real world.  I am not sure if my daughter or any other 4th graders will have that experience in this state. I envision many hamburger graphic organizers and formulaic five paragraph responses. 

These aren't the experiences that shape real writing. As a writing instructor, I see it in the difference between what my ninth graders write for mandatory practice FCAT writing tests and their well-crafted essays emulating writers such as Rick Reilly and Leonard Pitts Jr ala Kelly Gallagher.  Their FCAT writing is dead. Their writing with these mentors has power and voice.  It is a shame.  Hope too is ready to write for real purposes. Students in a digital age have some many opportunities to write for real live world-wide audiences.  What a wonderful space for teachers to hook kids into writing just as this slice of life blog has been working for me.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Paper vs. Plastic

My mom's doing it. My boss is doing it.  Most of my friends and students are too.  I am not.  I have made a conscious decision to stay in the world of paper, paperback or hard back if the price is right.  To be fair, I am often a late adopter of technologies.  When I finally cross the line, I plunge head first. I just relinquished my razor last year and learned how to text.  I foresee a future where I will have to give in, but right now I can't and just won't.  Having a Kindle or a Nook would be perfect for me, even my daughter recognizes it, because I am an voracious reader.

 When I travel, books weigh down my luggage.  I typically read two or three at a time.   You never hear me utter the words, "I need to recharge my Kindle."  In fact, that would be a dangerous state for me, to be bookless, until the tool is recharged.  Unthinkable! How often do I use my phone until it dies?  Too often much to my husband's dismay. 

I love a book's portability. It can literally go anywhere. There are waterproof books, not that I own any, but you will often find me reading poolside, beachside, or even springside.  Splashes are inevitable. But the fiscal impact of a destroyed book doesn't hurt me as much. My friend loaned her e-reader to a student in the class and the student cracked the screen. Ouch!  When students return books to me, it doesn't matter their state.

The real reason that I haven't crossed-over is that e-books are not built to share. I live and work in a world where I share my books with more than one other reader.  I spend a significant number of dollars on books each year for my classroom.  (Too embarrassed to share the exact amount!)     E-books limit the number of times that I can share a book.

Books in my classroom move like wildfire, the most recent being Divergent by Veronica Roth. (If you read and liked Hunger Games, you will enjoy this book.) We are now anticipating the sequel, Insurgent.  We already have a waiting list.  Kids in my class pass books to their siblings and parents as well. In my personal life, I share books with many different adults, my sister, my ultimate friends, book club members, and others. Books such as The Language of Flowers and The Wild Trees will be passed among five or six adults hands until they makes their way back to me. 

I feel a little awkward sharing with my mom and my boss, people who have gone digital. It's like confessing I am a Luddite.  I still do it though, put good books in their hands. Until obsolescence, I will keep my paper. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Destination Unknown

I love driving my car.* My first car was a 1974 yellow convertible Karman Ghia.  The four of us ( my brother, sister, and friend) would cram into the car every morning with the Violent Femmes or Madonna blaring, the top down, and if cold, the heat toasting our toes to get to school.  The drive would take about 30 minutes and I always imagined that one day we would be channeling Fred and Wilma by using our feet to propel the car.  You could see the pavement through the floorboards. My dad finally figured out that the car was probably better suited to being revamped as a potential collector's item rather than as a car for a sixteen year old.

Thus entered my second car, a 1970 blue bug that I drove off and on throughout the rest of high school and during my last few years of college.   Aside from a few fires, the big one being an engine fire that a nice older gentlemen in a RV put out with his fire extinguisher, it was relatively safe and got me to the places I needed to go school or work within city limits  I could fix it with my bare hands.  But I always dreamed of a day when I would have a reliable vehicle that I could take farther.

The first car that I owned in my name, 1994 Red Honda Civic, took me far and fulfilled that dream to go farther.  I drove that car over 278,000 miles including an 11,000 mile cross country trip one summer.  I finally sold it this past November for $500 dollars. When I sold it, the engine was still reliable and the air conditioner worked. The windows didn't roll down and when it rained, you could swim in the pools that were left behind in the floorboard.  I still laugh about the day my friend caught me bailing my car out at work. I am sure that I could be suffering from some illness induced by mold growth from that car.  It was time to let it go and bring reliability back into my life.  My new car now does that.  Now road trip possibilities unfold only limited by time and money.

*I diverge from my typical posts about work life as today was a true play day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Food for Thought

My daughter made lunch for me today.  All by herself.  She's eight.  She used the stove and prepared cheese quesadillas.  She told me that the secret is using a little butter in the pan.  They were perfect and not just because she made them.  She has been paying attention to the craft of cooking.  She boasts that her dad makes the best grilled cheese because he pays attention. She knows I get distracted when making grilled cheese and burn them.  I do that with simple things while cooking.  I don't pay close attention.  She prefers my mac and cheese since I use cream instead of milk.  She has a narrow, but nuanced palette. 

She has been at my side in the kitchen since birth.   Her evolution into a cook started quite simply.  First just sitting on the counter watching.  Then she progressed to cracking eggs, then scrambling them with assistance.  This past year she has mastered the microwave, reheating pasta and making hot chocolate.  It has evolved this week into a hot lunch for both of us.  I still use the knife and turn the stove on low, but she did the rest. She paid attention.  Her thoughtful work in the kitchen reminded me of the value of time spent in the classroom nurturing readers and writers.  There never is enough.

Not all students come having paid careful attention to reading and writing. Not all students recognize the secrets of literacy. Not all students have someone by their side to foster their development over time. No matter the experiences that students bring to my my classroom, what I know is we need time.   Time to read and write. Time that isn't uninterrupted or derailed.  Fortunately, I've got nine more weeks to help them pay attention, unlock the secrets and broaden their palette.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I go to my hair dresser and I let him do what he wants. He knows me. He has cut hair and colored hair for a long time. He is a master stylist. I often joke that I won't tell him what to do with my hair if he won't tell me how to teach reading. Sadly, that is not often the case in our field. People make decisions about education and their expertise stems from the fact that they too once went to school. Guess what? I too once cut hair and it didn't go so well. Just ask my mom and my cousin. Just because I did it, doesn't mean I am an expert. 

Today I got to visit an expert in the field of  Type 1 diabetes.  I have been working with an endocrinologist and a nurse practitioner for the past three years, but my doctor really wanted me to work with Mike.  Mike is special because he is truly an expert in my disease in so many ways.  First he was born this way.  He is a type 1 diabetic. He runs marathons so he understands the unique challenges that type 1s manage while engaged in exercise.  He also has the medical expertise related to his field of study and degrees.  I meet with him every six weeks this year to refine my medical treatment.  We tweak my basal rate each time. 

Morning fasts over the last six weeks have revealed that work brings my sugars up at least forty points, significant and not a one day occurrence.  Now we have to figure out how work really affects my day.  Next week I have to eat the same thing each day and record my numbers. I have to collect tons of data, both quantitative and qualitative.  They are equally important.  The numbers don't matter if he doesn't know what and when I ate and what I did each day, if he doesn't pay attention to my story.

As I think about my visit with Mike today what strikes me most is the trust that we put in other professions to be experts and put our lives in their hands. We don't do this in the field of education.  In fact, the state of education  has even caused the best of teachers to question themselves, their expertise.

What I do know is that I have spent almost nineteen years in the classroom. I have achieved National Board certification and a doctorate. I have shelves lined with books about the teaching and have actually read them. I attend professional conference most often at my expense.  I keep learning and refining my practice.  I am not any different from any other experts in my field.  They are often right there by my side engaging in the same.  I am an expert. Will this matter when my students take their big test of my expertise in three weeks?

If Mike relied on one test, my AIC, he would not be able to treat me well. If he didn't spend a significant amount of time working with me and getting to know me, my treatment would be less effective.  Instead, he relies on tons of data points and my story.  Teachers get tons of data points each day by working with their students, just not the one that matters in this age of high-stakes testing. These are the data points that we can't or don't share.  In a few months, teachers will be judged when FCAT scores come out in this state. Like other states, newspapers will potentially publish my students' scores for one test date. I won't be able to extract all of the variables or tell our story.  But it still matters.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Spring break in my house means two things, finishing my taxes and deep cleaning. The taxes are a small homage to my parents' whose tax business I worked in for most of my life, especially over my spring breaks. Spring cleaning brings back memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie.  They would engage in a full-scale exercise of shooing the winter away by cleaning from top to bottom. I admit I don't go that far with the cleaning, that's my husband's job, but I like the purging that spring break brings. While I was in my daughter's room today, I noticed that she has posted dreams on her mirror above her desk.  At age 8, she wants to go to Paris, because that is where many artists live, write a comic, and run a mile.  She wanted to be a dolphin trainer at one time.  Who will she want to do next?

I had many dreams.  The first recorded by one of my mom's college classmates when I was ten. She interviewed me for a child development class. I said that I wanted to be "a lawyer, doctor, and President of the United States." When I was 16, I wanted to be an astronaut.  When I graduated from high school, a chemical engineer or a journalist.  In a round-about way, I did reach one of my 10 year-old dreams of being a doctor.  No matter how I got there, I am living my dream.

What I do remember most on my path to achieving my dream is that no one laughed and people supported me on that quest. When I was in 10th grade and wanted to be an astronaut, someone believed that I could do that and was committed to helping me get into The Naval Academy. I babysat his grandkids.  I watched my dad support my mom's dreams of earning her college degree.  He knew how far your dreams could carry you with the right supports.

 My cousin, age 18 just decided to pursue her dream of going to fashion school.  I am so excited for her.  How many people push aside their dreams because they don't have the courage to believe in themselves or don't have the support they need to channel that courage?  A teacher has the opportunity to help students follow their dreams every day. Help them dream big, no matter the path they will have to take to get there.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


The Florida Sandhill Crane couple that resides across from our school have decided to show off their brood. I love it when they do so; it signifies that spring is officially here.  They fly over and hang out in the stand of pines across from my portable.  Do my students know that these birds mate for life?  Do they stop and watch the babies with their awkward long legs and fluffy chick-like bodies?    Do they know that these birds are a threatened species?  Are they aware of a unique opportunity we have to stand still ?   Is there a way I can connect this to a standard?  Will it be on a test?  Is it important?  Are students curious about these birds?   Should I take advantage of their interest? 

These are questions that race through my mind as I work on finalizing my lesson plans for the fourth nine weeks during spring break.  Anything that means a trip to our library or our computer labs is out due to testing.  The library will be closed for at least 6 weeks and the computer labs for about 8.  Talk about testing narrowing the curriculum, in more ways than one it has. Testing and the resulting progress monitoring have taken away at least 4 weeks of instructional time in my classroom.  I don't cover content.  I create opportunities for students to develop a deeper understanding of what they need to know as well as why.  I find that I have less and less time to do so. I don't have time to change gears as often and respond to that teachable moment.  It's a frustration that many in my field share.

Today I scrapped my plans and headed for the beach.  It was that kind of day.  The weather was sunny and the water was warm, a perfect spring day in Florida.  How often do we do that in teaching anymore?  Scrap our plans, especially when the forecast in the classroom calls for something different.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Red-Letter Day

Today I accomplished something for myself, a red-letter day. After I finished my doctorate in 2005, I decided to focus on my health and get in shape.  I was running 5 miles and biking 2 miles to get to the gym each day.  Then my life changed drastically.  I received my diagnosis of latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) or type 1.5 diabetes.  I received this news the day before my second nephew, Cole,  was born.  He will be four in August and I will be celebrating my fourth anniversary this year.  I remember that year as the year that I cried at work every single day.  I had pretty much given up crying after my dad died, but the challenge of managing the demands of a new role as reading coach and a new role as a human with a chronic illness were overwhelming.

I stopped working out due to cognitive overload and fear.  It felt weird to be on the treadmill at the gym and after 35 minutes "fall out" or eat candy.  One time when I was out walking, my husband had to find me on the road to bring me a coke. Crazy right?  Almost counter-intuitive!  When I played ultimate, my blood sugars soared.  My doctor didn't think that could be right, but numbers don't lie.  Just managing the day-to-day of the disease early on was a challenge and working out, more complicated.  Simple things like forgetting to wear my pump to work or to bring back-up supplies were problems that I needed to figure out. I put working out aside.

In August 2010, on my second anniversary, I decided that I was going to get my life back by giving myself the one prescription that makes a significant difference physiologically in my life, getting up and moving every day no matter what.  On the days that I work out, I use 10 units less of insulin  Initially, it was hard to break old patterns of putting work first and myself second and navigating my fears. It took several months, until April of 2011 to get it right. Several missteps got it in the way because I didn't have the right tools.  A continuous glucose monitor, a machine that checks my blood sugar every five minutes, changed my ability to work out, as well a friend, Jackie, who started walking with me.  Her mission was to figure it out with me.

Since then, we have sort of figured it out. I still have some lows.  I carry about $9000 worth of equipment when I walk\run, my pump, my cgm, my meter, my phone, candy, and ziplocs, in case of rain. Fortunately, like tonight, it never seems to rain on me, even when it looks like it.  Someone wants me to finish my task of taking care of myself. Since August, I have put over 369 miles on these feet, mostly walking.  But tonight, my red-letter day, I was able to run 2.6 miles without stopping, without lows, without fast-acting sugar.  I couldn't have done it without support. Tonight it was the support of my husband and daughter, but it was also on the wings of others who have helped me get this far. Thank you!

What can I take away from this to my classroom?  It is important to be patient. Change takes time.  A network of support is key.  Changing a lifetime of habits is hard work.  Be tenacious.

Friday, March 23, 2012

History Lessons

It seems to me that we can’t explain all the truly awful things in the world like war and murder and brain tumors, and we can’t fix these things, so we look at the frightening things that are closer to us and we magnify them until they burst open. Inside is something that we can manage, something that isn’t as awful as it had a first seemed. It is a relief to discover that although there might be axe murderers and kidnappers in the world, most people seem a lot like us: sometimes afraid and sometimes brave, sometimes cruel and sometimes kind.
—Sharon Creech

I thought that I would respond to earlier SOLSC quote.  It resonated with me for many reasons.    Currently we are reading Lay That Trumpet In Our Hands by Susan McCarthy. It is one of my favorite books for shared reading in ninth grade.  It is historical fiction set in central Florida in the early fifties.  McCarthy reveals our shared history here, one of intolerance and hate crimes.  Some of the events are fictionalized for the purpose of the story and some lifted right out of the headlines from the newspapers such as the murder of Harry T. Moore and his wife.   It is also a perfect companion novel to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, except there are events that occurred in our own backyard.

The story itself has an eerie similarity to what happened to Trayvon Martin, again in our own backyard.  There are truly awful things in our backyards and if we don't work to understand them, we are destined to repeat them.  Isn't this the purpose of including history in our curriculum?  Last week my students were all fired up about Kony.  This week they were fired up about Trayvon Martin.  We did this by reading articles found in the New York Times, the Orlando Sentinel and The Miami Herald.  Thoughtful reading and discussion helped us uncover what happened and why Trayvon's death matters, why history matters.   It is through education that students learn to be more often brave and more often kind.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cultivating Readers

100th Day of Kindergarten,
100 Books Read

My daughter and I just left Barnes and Noble. It is the first night of her spring break and she had a gift card to burn.  She's eight, but already knows the value of a $15 gift card.  As she looked at titles, she checked the back for the prices and did the math.  She knew that she could get two paperbacks for the price of one hardback.  With patience you wait until the hardback goes to paper or you go the library. As we left, she said, "I'm going to ask for Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmas." She didn't speak to me on the way home and we didn't listen to music. When I turned around to check if she had fallen asleep, I caught her with her nose in one of her new books. I often do.

She was born into a world where she had over 200 picture books.  Books were always there for her, even in the womb.  If kids are listening in utero, I am sure that she was lulled to sleep there by tales of Romeo and Juliet, Ginny and Smitty, and other characters who often haunt freshmen English classrooms.  I see her dad's influence on her book choices too.  She loves graphic novels, The Walking Dead and BabyMouse, and she loves slapstick as evidenced by her love of  The Diary of A Wimpy Kids series and Big Nate

 One of my favorite things about being a parent and a reading coach is watching my child develop into a reader. I've always had a secret fear that she wouldn't and maybe she won't choose it later, but now she does. I'll enjoy it. I'll enjoy it along with the discovery that my 1st period students have read over 372 books this year, my 2nd period, 235, and my third period, 325 so far this year.  Many of them stocked up this week knowing that spring break started today.  One of them even came after school was over while most kids were gleefully exiting the building.

At Family Literacy night, Miguel's mom was glad that BN gift cards were prizes as she is having a hard time keeping him in books.  Teens just don't have expensive tastes for electronics; teen readers are expensive to support.  Just ask any reading or English teacher who maintains a classroom library.  Just ask any parent who has one.  I think that is why I love my job the most, the opportunity to help teen readers bloom.

Most of my students don't see themselves as readers in August.  By spring, the time of the year, they  do.  They anxiously chart their progress.  They make recommendations to others. They ask for more suggestions.  They can articulate their likes and dislikes.  They just don't say, "I hate reading." 

After spring break, we will have nine weeks left.  Unlike my daughter, with teen readers, I only have a year to cultivate their love of reading.  There's still plenty of work to do. I'll welcome it after this upcoming week's opportunity to renew.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Didn't eat lunch today.
Didn't work out today.
Didn't grade papers today.
Didn't write my reflection today.
Didn't follow my lesson plan today.
Didn't see my kid until 9:30pm today.

Gave 100% all day.
Tomorrow I will get to the rest.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Two of my dedicated team members
I came home tonight and my mother-in-law said, "They really work you in that place."  To really know the unpaid hours that educators put in, you would have to live with one.  In fact, I just fool myself into thinking I have summers off.  My husband knows the truth.  I often joke that I am moving so fast and have so much to do at work that I can't take time to document it all.  Literally I have to send in a spread sheet every two weeks so that the state of Florida knows how I spend my time.  Quantitative data only!

I could have gone home today at 2:30 after my contractual hour, but instead stayed until 8 o'clock tonight with several of  my dedicated colleagues.  The ones, who aside from my students, make my job joyful each day.  It was Family Literacy Night.  To coordinate one well, you need the right people, because there certainly isn't a budget for one of these events and there certainly isn't overtime.  Over thirty adults came out tonight to host Family Literacy Night.  People who are committed to working beyond their 7.5 hour shift to help create a space where we can cultivate lifelong readers.  Because that's what it takes.

Tonight it took a principal, an assistant principal, a dean, a math teacher, a reading coach, a guidance counselor, a media specialist and a community of reading and English teachers.  My colleagues know the value of nurturing readers in a world where cultivating test-takers dominates. Educators live with the value-added model on their backs, but the power of the story is preeminent.  I'm not sure how tonight will impact test scores, but I know tonight, family literacy night allowed students to be poets, readers, thinkers, and writers, maybe even dreamers. It was well worth our time.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Life is fragile.  I accept that but it is also something that I am forced to relearn without warning.  During my 18th year of teaching, last year, I lost a student.   There are no instruction manuals for these situations and I have never attended any workshop that helped me devise a lesson plan for that life lesson. 

I won't forget the day that my principal came and told me.  What a hard job for her, negotiating teachers, parents, and students through this time.  What a hard job for me, figuring out how to handle it. 

We are coming up on the one year anniversary of this student's death.  Even though I have suffered loss in my personal life, the loss of a student is quite different.  The grief is more public.  You aren't managing your grief but the grief of the twenty-four classmates that remain.  Interventions come the first day and they may even linger for more one.  There comes that moment in time when it is just you, your students, and an empty seat.

It's hard.  It takes more courage than you think you can muster.  In my class we wrote, we read, we talked, we listened. My students  understand that these are safe ways to negotiate the world. As Sharon Creech says, "It seems to me that we can’t explain all the truly awful things in the world," and we can't, but we can help our kids learn healthy ways to navigate through dark times.

As the one year anniversary of this student's death approaches, I am trying to figure out how to let the parents know that I remember. I will never forgot your child's smile and the joy that your child's presence brought to our class.  It's the least I can do.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

One Sunday A Month, 8 Years Strong

Since 2004, I have spent at least one Sunday a month with my book club.  I had to call my friend, Rebecca, to figure this out. Isn't that telling enough?  It's been a constant in my life for so long, I don't remember when it started.  We narrowed it down by determining what we read in hardback and what major events occurred during that 1st year.  Possibly it was a blur to me because 2004 was the year that my daughter was born.  The key event that helped us figure it out was Hurricane Charley and the simultaneous read of Atwood's dystopic Oryx and Crake being discomforting for one member.  

We aren't a serious book club as we discovered early in our meetings. Some people left because we weren't cerebral enough.  We do dedicate ourselves to reading quite a variety of books and eating a good meal together.  Although people come in and out of the book club, most of the members have been the same, the core. Not only is a great way to connect with friends that you don't quite see as often as you like, but it is a good way to read out of your comfort zone.  Currently we have a few English teachers, a biology teacher, an athletic trainer, computer engineer now teacher, an accountant, and a massage therapist, a diverse group.  We range in age from the twenties to the seventies. 

Early on there was some mumbling of rules by members who cared about such things, those types of people too have disappeared.  Perfect attendance not being a necessity.    After an ultimate tournament in Savannah, Georgia, I made it my mission to make it back for boo club by the last half hour at 8 pm.  We have Skyped with a member in Japan. The only real rule is that you should just come, even if you haven't read the book.  You should come, especially in those months that you haven't been able to read the book. Those are the times that you need the club the most.

More important than the reads are the lifelines we have created. We have witnessed times worthy of great celebration, graduations, birthdays, and great sorrow, including loss of limb and even death.  Books and our membership have helped us channel our emotions, think more deeply about life, consider perspective, and create an invisible tether among us that hold us when we are not strong. 

 Most people would come up with a list of their favorites, I am just giving superlatives to the most ignoble or most memorable:

Book I Don't Think I Will Ever Get to the End of:   
Uncle Tungsten by Louis Sachs
Most Frivolous Read:   
The Turtle Mound Mystery By Mary Clay
Book that Took Me The Longest to Complete (1 year):
 The Wild Trees by Richard Preston
Most Unappreciated Read:   
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Book that Was Proclaimed to be for Harry Potter Fan's But Really Wasn't:  
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Book That Gave me the Complete License to Never Mow A Lawn aka the Freedom Lawn: Suburban Safari by Hannah Holmes
Book Representing the Genre, Snarky Memoirs, That I Discovered I Don't Like:   
Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster

Most Universally Hated By All Members:
A Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
 Book That Encouraged the Most Talk About Mothering and Breastfeeding: 
 State of Wonder by Ann Pachett
Book I Wished That We Had Read for Book Club But Didn't:  
Garden Spell By Sarah Addison Allen

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Game Time

“Ah, Just like I planned it! You did exactly what I wanted you to do!” Hope shouts gleefully at her dad. She just bested him at a round of Connect Four. Right now while I am writing, her dad is explaining some of his processing strategies on how to plan an attack strategy. We’ve played rounds of Concentration much like I did with my parents except the cards have Disney princesses on them. We've played rounds of Guess Who. We played rounds of Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. We’ve got the slow food movement, the art of slowing reading, and in my house we have the fun of slow gaming, family game night.
When I was 10 years old, I was finally allowed to play the grown-up card game of Hi-Lo-Jack. I still remember learning at my great-grandfather’s side along with my parents and grandparents at their tiny winter home in Melbourne, Florida during my Spring Break one year. The tradition still continues as we’ve taught my husband how to play and invariably any family gathering of a least four adults includes a raucous card game.
In 5th grade, I remember playing rounds and rounds of Pick up Sticks and Uno in Ms. Harvey’s class during lunch. Some of my favorite memories of my Dad include playing Trivial Pursuit. He always had some arcane knowledge that I now realize came from the fact that he was 15 years older than my mom. He had an entire decade and a half of knowledge that no one else in the room had. After someone would pose a question, he would smirk and taunt, “Easy, easy!” In college, it was ultimate Scrabble matches with the OED as challenge reference. As an adult I love to play Turbo Cranium and when I really have time in the summer I love to go play live trivia with my friends.
On my phone, I do still play Tetris. I also indulge in Words with Friends and Scramble, but none of these games bring the joy and laughter into my life like playing games face-to-face with friends. It is actually one of the few things that I like about our school library. Kids can and do check out board games. I watch them play during lunch and before and after school. In fact, our media specialist hosts a board game activity day during school. I look forward to testing days when kids are stuck in my classroom for an extra hour because they are the times when I whip out my 7-8 Scrabble boards and we all play.
As I think about all the time in my life spent gaming, I realized I learned more than just how to play a game. I learned how to talk to adults and how to ask questions. I learned how to strategize and make a plan.  I learned how to lose and I learned how to win.  When we make time for slow gaming with kids, they have an opportunity to learn so much more than meets the eye. Ultimately it's just a sacred time for laughter. It's my time now. Have an Operation scheduled with my daughter.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lighting the Way

The view from outside my portable at 6:30 am.  The windows are full of
figurative language flowers created by my students.  Instead of a word wall,
we have a windows full of words, which I actually have caught them using.
Thank you Kira for showing me how to do this!

I love eavesdropping on teens, especially when they don't think I am listening!  Granted this listening goes with the territory in my field, but I even do a little eavesdropping when they aren't in my class.  With spring forward this week, my portable literally illuminates the sidewalk. Every student who walks to school goes by my classroom and every teacher who parks in the back walks by this bay of windows. I had an opportunity to overhear three girls complementing the windows saying, "That looks like a fun class."  "I wish my classroom looked like that."  I hope all teachers make a classroom inviting for their students.

For the past seven years I have kept the blinds down in this portable. Now the first thing that I do in the morning is turn on the lights and open the blinds.  Initially I kept them closed to keep the sun from hitting us the wrong way and also to keep my students from being distracted.  Besides if I kept my blinds open all the time while I was teaching, what would people see?

Two weeks ago after reading an article about sleep and light, we (my students and I) decided that we should keep our blinds open each day to make sure we are getting enough "blue light."  I love the results.  Students seem awake and I admit sometimes we people watch. The same people come late to school during first period each day.  We wonder, what's their story?  People stop admire and smile at our window.  My students are proud of their work and they get to see the immediate joy it brings others.  I'm glad we made it visible.

I have decided that people should see the inside of my classroom. In this time of high-stakes testing, we need to render our work as visible as possible.  Let people peek into the windows and watch how we inspire students every day, by letting in the light.