Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Simple to Remember

Celebrating a decade with the love of our life, Hope, today!  It is my daughter's tenth birthday so I will keep it short.  She even got to be one of the last students to take the FCAT 2.0 Writing test as part of her celebration.    Keeping my slice short so that I can enjoy the rest of the evening with her and get in our daily VIRT! (Very Important Reading Time!)

1.  Modeling matters!  From the hurricane-style that I keep my clothes organized to the way I respond to situations, my daughter sees, my daughters hears, my daughter does.  Your students do the same, they are watching you and taking your cues, especially your cues about reading, writing, and learning.  Showing vs. telling matters not just in writing!  What good books have you shared lately? What well-written lines have you read to them lately?  What's something new that you have learned lately and shared with them?

2.  Experiences educate!  Luckily we have been able to travel  to some places with her such as Alaska and Washington and she understands the concept of snow.  We have, however, also immersed her in local experiences not  limited to Disney and Sea World, but the beaches, the springs, and scalloping to name a few.  She has gone to museums, plays, and football games. These experiences build neurons and help her connect the classroom to the real world.  My favorite activity is to take freshman to see one of Shakespeare's comedies. I love to sit back and watch them laugh and enjoy Billy Shakes as he was meant to be, on the stage.  We can't always take our students on field trips, but we can get them connected to experiences on our campus that they wouldn't ordinary partake by choice.  I set that experience up by having students do Independent Study Points, an idea I stole from a teacher a few years ago.  One of the band instructors complained about their etiquette, lesson learned, but that is now a mini-lesson I will teach them in class.

3.  Work and fun are not necessarily synonymous.   One challenge of parenting is pushing your kids to do the necessary work. Sometimes it would be easier to do the work for my daughter, less messy, more quickly completed, but then she wouldn't understand that when work is hard, you have to be tenacious.  You have to dig in and complete the task.  For students, reading, writing and learning are not always fun, but we have to figure out ways to help our students navigate difficult tasks. It is wonderful though when they figure out how work can be fun, especially when it was something they thought they wouldn't like in the first place.

As a high school teacher, I am fearful of what she might teach me during her middle school years, but have loved every moment so far of her first decade.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Keep Moving

I have two things on my mind today, both percolating for awhile.  I need to do a more research about one before I write about it in a public forum.  But the other has to do with the haters out there.  Pardon me for stealing a line from my students.   I have been carrying this weight on my shoulders for more than the past 8 months, long before I tore my ACL while playing ultimate. Possibly about the time my friend managed her injuries--- broken wrists from two different roller skating accidents.

I have been surprised by the negativity from on-lookers in my journey whose immediate response to my injury was, "You shouldn't have been playing ultimate at your age."  Like I somehow deserved my injury because I am old. It wasn't like I was playing against a 24 year old, I actually collided with a 50 year old woman in the recreational league. It was a freak accident.  At my age I know better than to try to play in the competitive league and I make sound decisions when choosing whom to cover.  When I told my knee doctor that my goal was to play ultimate until I was 50, he didn't laugh and tell me it was out of reach.  He told me that my knees will be good to go until I am 60 barring any other accidents. He didn't say, "Stop!"

The naysayers remind me of my grandmother although they come in all shapes and sizes, not just ladies of a certain generation.  My grandmother often chided my mother for wearing sleeveless shirts at her age.  My mom kept doing it and she still wears them despite her age and despite her mom's judgement.  I will admit, there were times when my mom shouldn't have leaped onto the rock to follow me over a river while hiking. Visions of carrying her down the mountain on my back ensued, but didn't materialize even when she missed the rock.  But there are valuable lessons that we learn about ourselves as we age---not ones that others decide or think we need to learn.

My aunt had a horrible fall from her seawall at low tide.  She survived, but she has never been the same about heights. Recovering from a catastrophic injury or any injury at any age can do that to you, change your life perspective. She reminds me that I too may reevaluate what I want to do and wonders if playing ultimate will be in my future.

Currently I am taking it slow and carefully making decisions about what to do next as I continue to heal, a process that may take up to 12-18 months and my leg may still never work the same.  I, however, am not letting people push me into exercises or actions that are inappropriate for where I am at at this stage of my recovery. Although I really wanted to do the Lake Lure Polar Plunge on New Year's Day, plunging into the icy lake with a boisterous crowd was not in my January 1, 2014 destiny.

I have no one to keep up with, but myself.  I can't jump or sprint until April.  I can't even think about competitive contact sports until May. I may never be able to do a lunge on my right leg without severe pain.   I may not overcome my fear and play ultimate when I am finally allowed to play contact sports.  I just might not be able to do many things that I once could do.

I do think I will keep moving and doing what I love in whatever form that takes even if I get hurt roller skating or playing ultimate. Even if others think, I might be a little too old.  The real danger is when you stop moving.

I know I will find other activities that I will love a little less than ultimate when the time is right, but until them, I will embrace my age and my ability to play, play at whatever is just right for me. I will continue to push myself and perhaps from time to time get injured, not just from being old, but from being active.I carry the remnants of several injuries that predate my oldness.  I will not  let others' perceptions about what they think is appropriate for me take precedence over what I know is right for myself for me right now.  And I will be careful about the presumptions I make about others.  All the more reason for me
to keep playing and growing  strong.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cultivating Digital Writing

It has been a few weeks since I have last sliced. I have few opportunities to hibernate before the slice of life challenge in March. But I have, however, been setting up the digital writing component of the class, Teaching Writing in Middle and High Schools, that I teach at the University of Central Florida.

The Slice of Life Challenge was the impetus for getting me write more frequently on my blog. It also gave me the courage to implement digital writing with my students at the high school and then college level.  I first assigned 50 of my freshman  a two week daily slice challenge at the end of the school year using our NING space with my colleague Lee Ann Spillane and her students. Last spring I challenged my ten graduate students to either slice weekly or to do the March challenge.  Needless to say, I survived both experiences.

This fall I decided that digital writing must be a component of the undergraduate section of the same class that I teach at UCF. Although we wouldn't participate in the weekly slice or the March SOLC challenge, we would create blogs and use those as a vehicle to explore our texts and digital writing. (I will encourage them to join the SOLC in March). We have posted twice.  Check out their posts here.

Unlike the my other experiences, I have been surprised the the variety of web tools that students are using to blog including blogger, wordpress, weebly, wikispaces, and tumblr.  Some are reviving blogs. Many are enjoying the assignment because they've always wanted to blog, but haven't made the time. We are working the kinks out, but so far I have been delighted by their craft and pluck.  

To challenge myself, I chose to learn how to use a different tool, wordpress, to create our class page. Although I have used blogger successfully for a two years, I have been struggling with wordpress and have shared that with my college students as they too have struggled.  Technology doesn't work like magic.  I am hoping that my college students remain flexible enough on our digital writing journey this semester to figure it out together.  Technology often works like teaching, there isn't always a step-by-step guide and you have to make time to figure it out. That journey is what I will be exploring with my future teachers this semester.