Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Slice for 2013: OWL Reflection

This year my word was brave...

One thing I know for sure is that bravery shows up in unexpected places...
My word took me to many places. I chose it knowing that many changes were in store for me in 2013, little did I know how many were actually in store.  The fall
was my most challenging, both professionally and personally.  You know you are in a rough place at work when you are counting the days that you haven't cried and you realize that there are less of those than the other.  My one little word project also ended up being a study of bravery in others such as my new principal braving the demands of our school or my aunt braving her battle with leukemia.

I have also marked small acts of bravery by
  • completing my 1st half marathon
  • jumping off the 30 ft platform into the spring
  • committing fully to my ACL recovery and not doing anything stupid
  • publishing for the 1st time

I have not quite figured out my one little word for next year, but am looking forward to the unexpected journey that one word will take me.

Books with fictional brave women that I have enjoyed reading this year...


Monday, December 30, 2013

It's Monday What Are You Reading: Southern YA Writers

What have I been reading? The works of young adult writers from the South.  I was excited this past fall when I was asked to chair a panel for ALAN 2013, especially when I saw Beth Revis as a featured author, but imagine my delight when I was introduced to 3 other amazing YA authors who are of the South, Myra McEntire, Alan Gratz, and newcomer, Shannon Hitchcock. Aside from their background, time, the intersection of past, present, and future connects these authors' works. It is especially fitting to share these works as I look over the Appalachian mountains that inspired or are part of the setting for these books during my winter break.

Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe, has penned a trilogy about two teens and their journey across space.  Though it is not set in the South it draws from her experience in the South especially the walls that confine.  You might integrate this series as part of a STEM program.  You also might pair it with Julius Caesar.  We used it as summer reading for our juniors this past year.  I can't wait to see what else this author writes.
The Ballad of Jesse Pearl by Shannon Hitchcock spins a tale of the past.  If you were 14 and handed your sister's son to take care of, would you rise to the occasion?  Shannon Hitchcock paints a vivid picture of life as a teenager during the age of tuberculosis.  How do you let someone go?  You might use this book during a study of the twenties. 

The English teacher in me was immediately in love with Horatio, the main character in Alan Gratz's mystery series that interweaves the tales of the world's most famous bard.  Something Rotten set in the foothills of Tennessee.  I am eagerly awaiting the release of The League of Seven in August 2014.

The web of time with the backdrop of Nashville creates an air of mystery around Emerson Cole, an orphan.  Myra McEntire weaves scenes from the past, modern time and time travel and to reveal Emerson's talent of seeing people n Hourglass.  Emerson finds, however, that she is not alone in her skills.  This story is the first in the trilogy, which I am still working my way through.

My view of the Smoky mountains, the backdrop of these books.
Happy Reading

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Feeling Blue!

What are you doing this month? Can you find 14-20 minutes to spare each day? For yourself? Just to move? October 14th was the kick-off for the Big Blue test and it lasts until November 14th. Log your workout minutes each day at the website http://bigbluetest.org/.  The goal this year is to have at least 20,000 people log their minutes and $10,000 dollars will be donated to nonprofit research to find a cure. You can even download an app to mark your minutes. I was reminded about the importance of exercise after receiving my A1C today.  It wasn't good.

Managing Type 1 diabetes hinges on three components, exercise, diet,and insulin. I have been sidelined from working out since July 22nd when I had ACL surgery. I have been managing my food intake closely in order to offset my lack of motion. I didn't account for my need for extra insulin. In fact, I know that I threw away at least three bottles of insulin thinking they had gone bad.  (It's not hard to do in Florida during the summer!) I realized today that I needed to change my basal rate---it didn't happen because I realized it three months too late.  Hindsight is 20-20. Every other number looked great today, the small victories.  The larger victory, my understanding the power of exercise in the management of my disease.   Luckily, I've been released to do cardio for 20 minutes a day as part of my physical therapy this month and my endo has helped me adjust my basal rate. The A1C will come back down.  I never thought I would be so happy to have the opportunity to exercise.  The Big Blue Test just provides even more motivation to do so.

This movement, however, isn't just for diabetics. I hope you join me in taking care of yourself this month, just by stepping out with me.  Cardio is not only great for the body, but also the mind.  .

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

OLW: Check-in

Where are you with your word? This month's OLW work is to stop and assess where you are with your project. I started the One Little Word Project in January and am three-quarters of the way through. Some months my intentions and actions were actually completed and others less so! In hindsight, I needed a larger reminder each month and/or a scheduled appointment to contemplate my word, my action and intention. Planning in my life works better.  I have three months left to try this out.

I did indeed brave the possibilities in January while contemplating my word and intentions.  I could have worked more on my actions for February by truly braving the heart although I did so more physically by completing my first half marathon though less family-wise as my original plan was. My March-May intentions, brave the silence, brave the storm, and brave the challenge were work related. I was able to keep my word in sight and use it to guide me through meetings and interactions at work. I did okay.

I chose brave the world for June and little did I realize when I chose my intent in January what braving the world would really come to mean for me.  It meant dealing with a hobbled injured self.  My accident literally changed my entire summer.  I managed and remained steadfast.  My word kept me strong.

I did indeed brave the wild in July both in actions and intentI even got my February assignment done, building a vision board.  My mentor Janet Allen aptly named one of her works, It's Never Too Late and for most things in life including my word that is true. July was my most intentionally active month in pursuit of my word. Perhaps my impending surgery made me more so or the few distractions from work made it easier.

I needed to most remember my word and intent for August and September as I faced many changes in my professional life including a new principal and the installation of two reading programs. Those changes layered with my weekly physical therapy were challenging and overwhelming at times.  I needed to embrace braving the unknown and the adventure more than ever.  Had I kept my intentions in mind, less tears and frustrations might have been kept better in check. Fortunately I still have time to brave the impossible which is my intent for October as well as work intentionally on my November and December actions.

How will you finish of the last quarter of the year?

Monday, October 7, 2013

IMWAYR: More Magic

I couldn't help myself. I know I made promises last week about what I would read, but got sidetracked when the sequel to Discovery of Witches landed on my doorstep. It is one of the dangers of our library system, home delivery.  You can't really control when the books show up.  I held out until Saturday. Frankly, I didn't have time to read all week with Open House and lesson study to prepare for. I certainly made up for it on Saturday by starting and finishing Shadow of Night. Again I would suggest that this book is more appropriate for older readers.  It is written for adults, but I would hand this series to sophomores, juniors, and seniors too.  ****SPOILER ALERT**** Enjoy meeting a host of historical figures through the timewalking of Diana and Matthew. This sequel stands up to the the first.  Now I have to wait until the conclusion comes out in 2014.  That's okay! I have other series books awaiting my hands, Rick Riordan's The House of Hades and  Veronica Roth's Allegiant this month.  I am also finishing Let's Not Go to the Dogs Tonight, a memoir of a girl who grew up in Africa.  I'll tell you more about it next week.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Open House

Two weeks ago I wrote about why I slice and working to cultivate my writing habit was one reason. I am excited to share that I was being a productive writer when I "skipped" slicing last week, because I was finalizing a piece that will actually be published in October.  Good excuse right?  But that's not what's really on my mind with this late night slice.

I got home from Open House about 30 minutes ago. As usual, I walked away feeling a little disappointed as I always have at this school for Open House. I would love to meet more parents.  This setting is the second school setting where I have been disappointed by the turnout. Certain classes are full of parents.  

We have 3000 students in our school. 3000 parents did not show up tonight.  In my position as reading coach, we do a reading parent meeting as an opportunity to meet potentially 1200 parents that have kids who are in a reading class.  Only two parents showed up.  We sent a letter home and we called.  Last year we tried other ways of reaching out after surveying parents about how when and how we should host meetings. We've even tried food!  What we are doing, we aren't doing it right. It's disappointing.

One of the two parents remarked, "The other parents must not care." It must look like that although  I never believe that statement when parents or teachers make it.  After twenty years of teaching, I still haven't met a parent who doesn't care about his or her child. I realize that some parents are ecstatic once their children reach high school and let them negotiate the process.  Some parents are exhausted and done.  Some parents are working.  All I know is that for teachers who have been at work since 6:30 this morning, what mattered most were the parents who came.  Tomorrow is another day to continue to reach out to parents and work with their kids.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Magical Reads

I was excited to start and finish Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches this past week.  It is book number 1 in the All Souls Trilogy.  What do you hand students in 11th & 12th grade who loved the Twilight and Harry Potter series?  You might hand this book to them.  It is grown-up, but it delves into the world of witches, daemons, and vampires.  Not only is there room for magic, but science and history fill the pages as well.  Are you looking for a grown-up book that will help you escape the world of muggles?  This book might be the just-right  one for you.  It kept me from finishing my book club book and doing all the work I needed to finish, but the escape was worth it. I am disciplining myself before I start book #2.

Another vampire book that you might hand to upper grade readers might  be The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  It was written for adults, but students who were nourished  by magical reads such as the Beautiful Creatures series and Ms. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children might enjoy leveling up.

I am rereading the Percy Jackson series with my daughter.  We are finishing The Sea of Monsters this week. It makes me happy that we have books that we can read together. She wants me to read aloud to her again. which she rejected in 2nd grade.  She is a fourth grader now.  Now that we are co-reading, we take turns. We even have her dad reading with us some nights.  I have a professional book, Using Data for Instructional Improvement,  to finish this week and am planning to start two memoirs this week, Carlos Eire's book, Waiting for Snow in Havana and Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to The Dog's Tonight. 

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Writing Dayz

Don't you think the cool thing about teaching is that we two New Year's, one in September and one in January, to work on celebrating and establishing new goals? Writing routinely is a goal for myself this school year, which includes posting a weekly Slice of Life. Last week I messed up!  I did get up at 3:30 am last Tuesday. I did start writing my post. I wrote a decent first draft. I like to proof.  I put it aside for later in the day. I should have posted it then. I should have known that later would not come. Waking up at 3:30 doesn't bode well for the rest of the day. I ended up trounced by the fever flash-flu and ended the day curled up in bed. Rather than writing when I got home, I made a decision that at that moment meant more, getting well. Sometimes in our life we will have to make choices, but failure to achieve your goal doesn't mean you didn't succeed. Instead I learned a lesson about how to better met my writing goal the next time that happens.

I focus on getting good at one thing each year Last year it was working out, the exercise habit. Sidelined by recovery from ACL surgery has granted me a little extra time since physical therapy doesn't take as long as working out.  Therefore I have time to work on establishing my writing habit.  When I am released in January from PT, I hope to have established a writing habit, but also know that I need mile-markers along the way to keep going.

Much like my exercise where I chose some runs to celebrate and set goals of time and length, I have established some short-term and long term goals for myself. With my students, I learned that setting small concrete writing goals by marking our lines per minute with fluency Friday actually helped most of them improve.  It made writing tangible for them. Participating weekly in the Slice of Life is a tangible goal for me versus writing an article to get published, a goal, however, that looms long-term.  If I can't discipline myself to write once a week and work a little each day at writing, then I won't reach my long-term goal. I've made it through two Slice of Life monthly challenges in March so I will continue working on being a weekly contributor year-round. Happy Slicing!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Service Learning

It takes a village to raise a child.  As often as we talk about the hours that teachers spend, but volunteers are also an integral component of healthly functioning of a school.  I wanted to celebrate the work of my student volunteers. Schools thrive on the volunteer work of students, especially at high school whether they are delivering schedules or shelving books.  My service learning students, however, provide a unique service at my school. Rather than take a class for no-credit or working in the office as clerical staff, they have elected to tutor reading and math students, working side by side with teachers in their classroom during the day. This past year was the fifth year that I have managed these students as an opportunity for them to earn credit and back to their school.

My colleague calls them "Lit Leaders" and she takes as many as she can get in a class. In her class, you will often find them reading to students in small groups or one-on-one, while others help manage the reading centers. You might see them sitting by a student in a math class as a designated tutor for a specific student or circulating among the students during practice time.

Some students enjoy the work so much that they take the course for two periods or take it on a second year. Last year two seniors opted-in for two periods to help out with math classes. Many of the students who joined this past year were students who had passed the FCAT or ACT mid-semester and this class provided an opportunity to help students just like them.

I've found the  best format is for students to work with a specific teacher and class daily.  They too develop relationships with "their students", relationships that matter. Alejandro was profoundly impacted by his work with one student who quite simply started coming to school more often.  In his second year as a "Lit Leader" he became instrumental in helping his teacher manage small groups while she worked with students during guided reading. Gabby discovered that the ELL student she was working with was brilliant in math and became his advocate with the teacher and guidance counselor to have him enrolled in upper level math classes. Tyronna is looking forward to hosting a chat and chew with her students outside of class to promote reading. 

This year I am using Remind101 and Google Forms to stay in virtual touch each week. I'm in the processing of connecting them to the just right teacher right now.  We're expanding our program with more students in math classes. As the year unfolds, I can't wait to see their impact on students and their ideas. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Celebrations Large & Small

Today I celebrate the five year anniversary of my diagnosis where I changed instantaneously into a person learning to manage a chronic disease.  My d-day is followed by my nephew's b-day so I remember while keeping perspective. My altered reality is defined by four letters, LADA.  My learning curve has been steep over the last five years as I reshaped my life. Rather lament the curse of my disease, I celebrate the gifts that it has brought me, ones I sorely needed.

It has brought me the gift of community, my personal learning network, pLN that mirrors the virtual support and information that I get from my professional learning network, PLN.  My pLN has brought me DSMA and the DOC, replete with people whose lives mirror my reality, managing a chronic disease. They have taught me that there is no perfect and to stop stressing about achieving it.  They have taught me to take one day at a time.  They have taught me to laugh.  They have taught me more about my disease than all the research and books that I have read or doctor's visits that I have had.  I have never met a single one of them face-to-face yet, but their words matter.

It has helped me uncover the gift of time. We make time for what we value. It's true. I believe it. I know it. When I went to get my ACL fixed, my ortho said, "So you're an exercise enthusiast."  "No!" I retorted.  "It is a prescription for my life." I literally use ten units less of insulin a day when I work out.  Exercise matters. I am able to see how much it matters. I must move for the rest of my life whether I am enthused or not. I hate exercising, but I love the community. I love moving with my fellow Gladiators, walkers, runners and ultimate players. They motivate me and move me. I make time.

It has brought me the gift of clarity. I see the visible effects of every choice I make as evidenced by my blood glucose readings.  I must keep calm and carry on. Stress doesn't do my body good.  I worry less now. I had to learn it and I had to practice it every day for the past five years. I am still learning. I figured out that I needed to put myself first. That too I practice and get better
at seeing every day.

It gave me the gift of courage.  Without courage, I would not have started blogging as part of documenting my journey of pursuing balance.  I needed balance most. I still seek it daily. I get better every day, but blogging helps me navigate the path. As an English teacher, I love the venue that all writers can experience via publishing. Teaching blogs and diabetes blogs helped me navigate my professional and personal life.  I hope my words have that same power for others.  Of all the gifts I received over the past five years, the most important is that I learned how to live not just how to survive.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Interrogate the Teacher

Monday marked my daughter's entry into 4th grade.  I love elementary school and I love the rituals that reach out to parents.  At my daughter's school, every parent has a conference with the teacher to pick up the 1st nine weeks report card. I would love to replicate that in high school for freshman.  I just can't wrap my head around how to do it with approximately 700 ninth graders.  But the ritual that I love most is "Meet the Teacher" or something that I like to affectionately call "interrogate the teacher" happens the week before school starts.

The first stop, the classroom library.  Is it hefty enough for students? Not rigorous, but enough books for readers to enjoy all genres and levels--- picture books, poetry, graphic novels, nonfiction and middle grade fiction favorites.   Yes, there is always the media center, but I believe that students should have access to plenty of books in the places that they spend the most time.  My child will be spending 180 days in this room.

I tell the teacher that I have concerns about AR. I don't hand her the research. I just let her know that we read for school, obligatory reading, and we read for pleasure. We are lucky when school and pleasure reading coincide. I consider AR obligatory reading and another way that we overtest students. I let her teacher know that we like to set a reachable AR goal. I have nightmares from my daughter's first experiences in kindergarten with AR where I would find her burrowed under the blankets with a flashlight at 5 am "studying for her AR test."  This elementary school like many in this district relies on AR as a way to ensure kids are reading nightly.  They don't go overboard with tangible rewards and celebrations and so it is a mildly tolerable experience. I just don't want my daughter to get the message that we read for rewards and grades because she and I read for fun and escape every night, not just for school.

I look through the textbooks.  What are they studying this year?  An overview of physical science...we will do some labs at home and add some science books to our library pick-ups. Florida history....sounds like some side trips are in order just not to St. Augustine where she spends family time and a field trip there is on her fourth school to-do list.

Not all of my questions are answered as other parents wander into the room. I am still left wondering about her as a writing teacher.  It is the last year of FCAT 2.0 Writing and PARCC looms in the horizen. How will she balance teaching persuasive and argumentative writing? Actually I am more concerned with how she will nurture my daughter as a writer, mathematician, scientist, and historian?  Many of my questions will be answered as assignments come home. 

I will ask questions about the purpose of assignments. I will ask for the data that I know in my role as reading coach is available, but is not shared with parents unless they ask.  I will also not try to make too many waves. TKs can be put under a microscope and not be free to make mistakes that other kids make.  I've seen it with freshmen students that I've taught. I want to find something to love about her teacher because I want my daughter to continue to love learning and we are partners on that journey this year.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

To Do Lists

I had grand visions of how I wanted to spend my summer.  My visions were doused by my unfortunate accident on the ultimate field right before the last week of school. They were also doused by last minute paid professional development opportunities proffered by my district, 5 online classes and several face-to-face classes. Note: None of these courses were mandatory, but as an instructional leader and teacher-educator in my role as reading coach at my school, participation seemed like professional non-negotiables.

I was side-tracked from my to-dos by work and my injury. I spent several weeks in a chair doing online modules and participating in pd as well as recuperating from surgery by icing and elevating. I wanted to read, write more and work out more, finish my taxes, and disconnect by hiking and camping.  I did read, I did write, I didn't work out and I still haven't done my taxes and I am not sure if I ever truly disconnected. I still have many to-dos, but summer is over.

I still have some days this week.  I spent most of today doing productive work with colleague, Lee Ann, planning a CCSS workshop for English, reading, and world language teachers for pre-planning week. We will be finalized this tonight which is why my post is so late. I need to develop a CCSS workshop for elective teachers at my school and two other workshops.  I will spend most of tomorrow with my new leadership team working on other aspects of pre-planning. The unpaid work this week will make my life easier next week.

While I still have time this week, I will continue to guiltily read books for pleasure while cramming the professional reading that I meant to do all summer.  I will spring hop and head out to the beach. I will do my taxes. And I will start thinking about developing  more realistic expectations or shorter to-do list for next summer.  I am feeling a little a loss of precious summer time as well as eager anticipation for the upcoming school year. How about you?

Monday, August 5, 2013

It's Monday! What R U Rdg?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a meme by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen
Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers give it a kid lit spin
I love summer! I can finish a book a day if I want. I love to stay up late and read.  Summer, however, for many is coming to a close.  Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson were ya fantasy series books that I read and I can't wait to introduce to my students this fall. I love a series because I hate when stories end. I can't wait to to see what happens next and am anxiously awaiting the next titles to appear on my front door. (Our library delivers and it's better for you than pizza!)

Laini Taylor's Karo (Hope) lives between worlds, a double life of sorts. She helps, Brimstone, the only father she has known, collect teeth. She is his conduit between the world of chimera and humans.  What we and she discover is there is a battle between good and evil forces, but nothing is as it seems.  The sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight, delivers as well, as it continues her story. I hate to give away too much because the mystery of Karou's origins is the mystery that keeps readers engrossed in this magical story.  I am anxiously awaiting the third in the series, Dreams of Gods and Monsters.

Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns is another ya fantasy with a strong female lead, Elisa, who is a princess and a chosen one, one of whom is chosen every century.  She is married in secret to protect her and partnered with one who may or may not want her. I might connect this title with The Odyssey as this becomes a hero' journey story. The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom are on my TBR list as I can't wait to see how Elisa's adventure pans out.

Next week it's nonfiction. Two books that I am in the midst of which I am finding helpful both personally and professionally.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hopping Along

I am learning how to navigate the challenges of life after having ACL surgery. I won't share the pictures of the inside of my knee, but I know healing is hard work from the inside out. Here are the top ten things that I learned so far.

1.  Learning something new is exhausting work. Need I say more? 

2.  Being dependent on others isn't easy. I am lucky to have amazing help. My husband has time off from work. My aunt has come down to help and my nine year old steps up as well. It isn't easy, but it is necessary. I try to make sure I have everything I need in my spot, but it doesn't always happen. Right now, I am avoiding needing anything while they are still sleeping.

3.  Navigating your first curb is like overcoming a mountain. A good friend told me how to navigate stairs. His advice made sense at the time, but as the curb grew before me, I couldn't figure it out. I just looked at it for awhile.  I did go over it and have since endured stairs, a hill, and grass. I am still thankful that I am in a one story space and someone invented elevators.

4. Ice is my best friend. In less than 24 hours I weened myself off pain meds. Icing is the key. I am not muscling through the pain, I haven't had much. I know I was in more pain after having a c-section. Nothing like ice can soothe the dull ache that creeps in the joints as the swelling increases. Twenty minutes on ice cures that.

5. I enjoy being a sloth. People think I will go stir crazy, because I am so active. I have many indoor pursuits aside from the reading to engage in such as writing, scanning old family pictures and watching movies to occupy my time. These activities are ones that I don't normally sit still long enough for, but will now. In fact, the day flew by watching 13 episodes of Mako Mermaids with my daughter. 

6. It is good to have the help of family and friends. My mom sent a Barnes and Novel gift card, my sister, an Amazon package, Paula, Lee Ann, & Mary, meals. Others have shared the gift of their time allowing my husband a break. All of these are thoughtful gifts that make the days go by smoother and faster. Thank you! 

7. The directions from the doctor never tell you everything you need to know. I read directions. I follow directions. I have questions. As a T1, I know doctors can never tell me all I need to know. Could you have it written in the follow-up that you won't be in a walking brace until your leg fits in the brace?  Not the 10-14 days that the post-op directions say.  False expectations! Surprises. Yes, I want to heal well, but I need to craft a timeline to make this work.

8. A frozen bag of spinach will do in a pinch. Work-arounds! In this world we need them. You have to craft them. You have to help your students and children problem solve. No ice! No peas! What do you have? Spinach! No way to elevate your leg while sitting, invert your crutch. Problem solved.

9. Never underestimate the power of dehydration. The day after my surgery I struggled bringing my blood sugars down. I had eaten low carb. I checked. I treated. I checked again. Finally it dawned on me that I hadn't had much water in the past 24 hours due to fasting. I started drinking and the sugars came down. 

10. This work is a temporary part of the healing process. My good friend lost her leg five years ago. In a month I should be walking fine. In six months I will be back to ultimate frisbee. I will be preparing for my next half marathon. I will resume Camp Gladiator. For me, the changes and challenges are temporary. Her challenges are permanent. I am lucky.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Brave the Wild: Rainbow Springs & River

Although I won't go back to work for weeks, my last summer adventure was Thursday, floating and snorkeling down the Rainbow River and a dip into Rainbow Springs. I have been sidelined much of this summer with a torn ACL. It has kept me closer to home and away from the mountains and woods that I normally hike. I have, however, been lucky to swim for the most of my summer although the next three weeks of my vacay and the next six months will be spent rehabbing from the ACL surgery I had yesterday. Part of my post-op directions are no water for two weeks. My mermaid brain is cringing as I write this. But this slice celebrates my last opportunity to brave the wild.
    Rainbow Springs is my favorite place to spring hop.  The spring head is at Rainbow River State Park. It is at the bottom of basin. The swimming area of the spring is deep and wide. If you have small children, they need a life jacket or noodle to take into the water.  The water is too deep for most adults to touch the bottom, but the water is clear, cold, and sparked and leaves your skin tingling for hours afterward. We always end our day of tubing here with a picnic and a dip.
  You can also rent kayaks from this area to venture downstream enjoying the Rainbow River, one of the most clear rivers you will find in Florida. Most rivers are tannic, but Rainbow river cuts a glass-like swath allowing for snorkeling as well as tubing, boating, paddleboarding, or kayaking. If you kayak from the spring head down, you will glimpse the spring plant life rehab project.
  We started our day tubing the lower part of the river. K.P Hole and the state park system rent tubes and provide shuttle service, both of which can get filled up pretty early on summer weekends. If you can, try to steal away on a summer weekday. We tried the state park system for the first time and floated our way down the river for two hours. Again it was a day of laughter with friends. 
  Braving the wild has been my intent this July. I chose it as a reminder to disconnect and enjoy the world. Hopefully you will get that opportunity before you go back to school.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Brave the Wild: Scalloping

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Each summer I  disconnect by braving the wild! My forays into nature reset my brain to ready me for the upcoming year. This year it happened to be the sea. I don't have a bucket list per say and I also believe there are many treasures to be discovered in my backyard that don't include theme parks.   With a torn ACL and the surgery to repair it looming in my future, water adventure are the most feasible. I have blogged about spring-hopping, but I wanted to do another uniquely Florida adventure- scalloping.

Eight people gathered this bucket of about 8 gallons
of scallops which yielded a little less than 4 pounds.

What I imagined and how the day turned out were two entirely different visions. I love it when a day in your life turns out that way.  I couldn't have imagined a more magical summer day than the one we spent floating in the Big Bend Seagrass Preserve. The beginning seemed ominous as we headed out to sea via the Steinhatchee River in the midst of a storm in which raindrops felt like hail, but the seas was flat which was a good sign. Fortunately, the sun peeped out just as we arrived at our destination.

You need the right equipment for the day most importantly a friend with a boat and their knowledge of the area and process. We packed light- snorkel gear, nets, and sunscreen. If you haven't been scalloping before, you might think that it is a simple process, just snorkel and scoop them out with a net. There is, however, more seeking involved, a "Where's Waldo?" scallop-style. When you see one, you know it, but to find them you must look closely, pay attention to the details.  There are a host of distractions from the task including an abundance of fish, a occasional octopus, even the way the sunlight plays upon the undersea world.

Aside from the adventure, what made it magical was my daughter's response. She's nine. She loved it. Already a strong swimmer, she didn't let fear stop her from engaging in the day. It can be unnerving for some to swim "in the weeds" where you don't see the bottom. She braved the wild. She became adept at swimming from the boat and searching for scallops on her own. What helped my parenting comfort level was the life jacket that she wore built for snorkeling. Also the water was about 4-5 feet deep so she could stand if needed. We spent at least four hours in the water, a real laboratory.

Both Hope and I have many more questions about scalloping and sea life.  I've spent my entire life in Florida and there is so much to learn about the sunshine state.  I will confess that I didn't "shuck" my scallops.  I wanted to, but that will be for my next adventure.  The eight of us gathered about 8 gallons of scallops which yielded a little less than four pounds.  In the end it wasn't about the meal garnered, it was about the journey, a day of light and laughter among friends and a better understanding of the environment.  As my friend Lee Ann blogs about, a pink-stone day.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tired Yet?

Note:  I took a two month hiatus from the SOLC, but am back and ready to write. 
On the positive note, on the days that I proctoredexams my pedometer clocked between 4-5 miles walked
versus my normal 2-3 miles covered during my workday.

Last Tuesday, I finished my final day of proctoring tests. Like any educator currently in the field of K-12 public education, I am not alone this week succumbing to the proctoring fatigue and the giddy excitement of summer overtaking me.  As the reading coach at a high school, I spent 7 of the last 10 weeks proctoring tests.  Proctoring translates into a minimum of 3-6 hours per day or ½ or all of a teacher’s work day.  If a teacher wanted to use a computer lab or the media center during the fourth nine weeks, their students were out of luck as were all the students in any classes that were computer-based.  Most 21st century technologies were displaced as our high school became a testing center. 

What does testing mania look like at a high school?  With End-of Course (EOC) exams in Biology, US History, Algebra I, and Geometry , Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB)  exams and the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Tests (FCAT 2.0) in reading and math, it looks different from testing at an elementary or middle school.  With a student population of 3200, it looks different from many high schools across America. With over 7,319 tests administered over the last 7 weeks at our school, not including IB tests, it looks like most public high schools in Florida. 

Fortunately we have a testing coordinator to handle the demands of testing season formerly known as “ the 4th nine weeks” and all of the other tests during the rest of the year that make this position full-time.  To our principal’s credit, we have an amazing testing coordinator, who came to school every day around 5 am to make sure the computers were up and ready to go.  She walked the eerily silent halls making sure that computers in the media center, throughout our 6 business education classrooms and in our computer lab were working.  She along with our tech coordinator handled any computer issues that literally popped up overnight.  She made sure that they were fans in rooms when AC wasn’t working.  (Did you know there is an optimal learning temperature according to some research?) She made administering the 4,152 FCAT tests for all ninth and tenth graders as well as the juniors and seniors retaking the exam, the 2,287 EOC exams, and 880 AP tests over the course of 7 weeks look easy.

It also took a team to administer these tests.  With over 180 instructional staff at our school, 140 teachers administered these tests and our team of guidance counselors helped every morning. No group was immune from making sure testing ran smoothly. Support staff including the media clerks and ESOL paraprofessionals as well as custodial staff were also involved.  Teachers provided the main support by proctoring tests, but they also made sure the right students made it to the right spot and modified their curriculum when half of their class was missing due to testing.  Also 133 substitutes were also used to cover classes while certified teachers were proctoring tests.  Does instruction stop when testing season begins? No, but it agonizingly slows down. 

As I think about the countless hours spent proctoring tests this year and know that I have neglected to include numbers about the instructional time that was lost during the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd nine weeks due to mandatory progress-monitoring tests and teaching students how to navigate the computer-based testing system, I continue to think about the actual cost of high-stakes testing. I am reminded of my mentor's favorite quote attributed to Albert Einstein, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Camping in Yurt

A rare site, a scenic river bluff in Florida
Heading to Florida for vacay?  Planning that trip often includes a trip to Disney and the beaches.  If you have lived here long enough, you know there are secret places---brilliant pools of blue encircled by moss-covered live oaks.  I spent the last weekend of spring break in Northwest Florida. Our three day adventure including meals, gas, park visits and lodging cost less than a one day family visit to Disney would cost.
One side of the 360 degree yurt.

We stayed in a yurt at  Torreya State Park. It was gorgeous and not so primitive for people who don't like to camp. We normally bunker down on the ground in our tent, so this site was a treat. We then spring-hopped by heading to 6 of the over 500 natural springs found in Florida.  We leaped into Wakulla Springs from a 33 foot platform in to the 155 deep spring.  We went spelunking in the Florida Caverns, then plunged into the fountain of youth at Ponce De Leon Springs and took a short trip to check our Morrison Springs.  We also enjoyed a unusual site in Florida, a 73 foot waterfall at Falling Waters State Park.  
Wakulla Springs
When I came home today, I cracked up because that area, Florida's panhandle and places to eat there  were featured in The New York Times Travel section, yet the all of the places I traveled  except for one restaurant weren't secrets shared with the New Yorkers.

It was a full weekend to close spring break with brilliant swimming weather and no distractions, but the splash of the blue water and the chimes of laughter.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


We all have them.
Fear of my A1C.
Fear of losing my sight.
Fear of heights.
To name a few of mine.

I try not to let fear consume me. Sometimes you have a physiological reaction like the one I experienced on Friday when I jumped from a 33 foot platform into a 150 foot deep spring. I jumped despite my racing heart. I felt like I couldn't catch my breath surfacing, perhaps the shock of the cold 64 degree water or my fear.

Fear constricts us. I climbed the platform and jumped again. Facing fear releases you from it's grip. Name your fear. Face it. Say it aloud to someone and hold their hand to face it together. 1.2.3 Jump!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Road Trip

In 1994 I took my first serious road trip, 11,000 miles, six weeks, 28 states, a tent, a map, and a friend. I had traveled the length of the eastern coast with my family from top to bottom, but had never ventured past the Mississippi River. This trip was about what lay west.

I've not done such a lengthy trip since, but spent much of my late twenties and thirties road tripping to ultimate tournaments. Those trips were more about the drive than the destination. Once there we spent ninety percent of our time on the fields. I've been to Savannah at least twenty times for ultimate yet never stayed long enough to enjoy more than the fields at Forsyth Park and breakfast at Clary's. Ultimate memories such as the 8 hour trip to Atlanta with Nami, a Japanese exchange student whom we showered with Broadway show tunes or the 8 hour drive to Pensacola where I unknowing kicked a friend's wallet onto the interstate and someone found and returned it, are all layered in laughter.

My company on the road changed once I married. He and I would travel to tournaments. He, a new designated driver. Our most memorable trip was a week driving around the peninsula of Washington state where we marveled at mountainous terrain, lush rain forest, cliff-lined beaches, and deep blue glacier-filled lakes. After my daughter's birth, we did shorter trips to the Keys and the mountains. I am planning a summer when we do our own version of a Westward Ho, but for now I'll be content with our small trips like our one today.

We are off heading north to Torreya State Park, but we will make several stops such as hopping into Wakulla Springs, Defuniak Springs, and Ponce De Leon Springs, checking out Falling Waters, and spelunking in the Florida Caverns. We will bunk down for the night in a yurt. We don't have a schedule. As long as we have gas in our car and a few day left in our break, we will make some new road trip memories together.