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.