Monday, March 31, 2014

Slice 31 and Done (for today)

This is my last slice, last slice, last slice for March. You know it is funny---a song resonated through my head this morning as I began to think about my last slice even before I went to the Two Writing Teacher's page and noticed that Stacey had a song in her head this morning.  My song was Donna Summer's Last Dance.

My first official dance class, at age 3.
Writing is like dancing. We all can dance. We can all write. Granted some dance or write better, but I would wager that they have spent more time practicing.  Practice is what it takes to do most everything better. What we deliberately practice, we get good at. We only read books like Gladwell's Outliers, Coyle's Talent Code and Hattie's Visible Learning for Teachers to understand about the power of deliberate practice.   Practice is at the heart of growing as a writer or a dancer and growing our students as writers. That is what the SOLSC challenge is for me, daily deliberate practice at writing, practice that is not always easy or fun, but most definitely deliberate.

I often say that I prefer reading over writing.  It's true.  For me, it is easier and an escape. I love sci-fi and fantasy.  Writing is hard work. Writing every day is harder.  I've noticed, however, a changed writer self through my participation in the SOLSC over the past three years.  I used to anguish over about what to write each day and wanted it to be meaningful and powerful.  I used to worry that I wouldn't get my blog posted each day.  This year I wrote with a confidence that I would get my writing done each day. I knew it wouldn't always be meaningful or power, sometimes it would just be done.  My two years of practice helped me with develop that confidence.

I am also confident that all of us are able to carve out time to do what we point our eye toward.  In the past I've been exhausted trying to post at the end of each challenge and not been able to muster the energy to write. I don't feel that this time. My practice over the past two years built that.   As I posted earlier this month, the third time's a charm.

I want to thank my friends, the readers I know, the readers who only know me through my blog, and the readers who comment during the month-long Slice of Life Writing Challenge.    Your life is busy and there are many distractions and much work to do. Thanks for taking time out of your day to read my words.

I want to thank Stacey and her team for putting in the time to do, craft a space to cultivate teachers as digital writers and students as digital writers.  I wouldn't have understood how digital writing matters for students without the opportunity to do it myself and deliberately practice.  I still dance, but I don't practice.  After this month is over, I will, however, keep writing and practicing since those are the moves that I am still aiming to perfect as a writer and a teacher of writers.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Break Blues

Although spring break is over officially at 5:00 am tomorrow, I did reach some of my short term goals.   I almost finished my taxes. I read and wrote every day. I almost exercised each day.  My daughter did clean out her room over the course of two days without my help.  I did paint my toenails, sleep in, and hang out with friends.  I didn't develop a model lesson plan, set up my tumbler, scan old photos, or make an infographic. Despite not achieving some of my spring break goals, I did accomplish the important things such as spending time with my family.  I discovered that I am still the queen of the hoops despite my knee injury and age.  Yesterday we had tornadic rainstorms and so went my day at the beach, but it would have been my second day at the beach this week.  There is always a slight let-down going back to work, but I know that I am a better caretaker of myself when I work.  An order to my life exists in the frenetic energy of work. I work out more and eat better.  Even so, I will be sad to leave the best part of Florida weather, the spring, behind. Work beckons once again.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Slice of Life is sponsored on Tuesdays by Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are posting a slice each day on our blog. Join in!I’m joining up with Ruth Ayres for her weekly link-up, Celebrate This Week. Check out all of the posts linked up at her blog HERE. Join us weekly!

7.  Hanging out at the beach with Lee Ann, her son, & my daughter.
6.  Multiple spring break lunch/dinner dates with old friends, family, and new friends.
5. Family time in St. Augustine
4. My daughter cleaned her room by herself although it took two days. She didn't want my help.
3. Me time for cut, color, massage, reading and hanging out with friends.
2. Sleeping in, definitely not overrated.
1. A life I love.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Testing: A Slice of American School Life

Testing season is upon many of us when we come back to school after spring break for the final nine weeks. The reality, however, is that testing season has evolved into a year-round venture in the American public school system. Sure, students have been taking tests in schools since education's inception, but high-stakes tests have radically evolved in the last few years. The sheer number and the use of the results are two major components derailing the American public education system.

In February at last count for my high school, 17,643 benchmark tests, end-of-course exams (EOC) and reading retake exams were administered. This number averages to about 5.9 per student  I double-checked my math.  This number indicates that a little over a week of instructional time was lost, was devoted to high-stakes testing or the preparation of high stakes testing via a test, not actual instruction.  Some of these exams were state-mandated and some were district-mandated. District-mandated tests here are given over 2 days each nine weeks for biology, algebra I, and geometry to monitor students' progress toward the EOC that they will actually take in May. The 17,643 tests administered at my school does not include common assessments that are learning community mandated and are created\ used by the professional learning community to monitor students' progress, probably the most useful part of the testing machine since they are teacher-made in most cases.  I also haven't included the reading progress monitoring tests such as the state-mandated FAIR and district mandated SRI and lexile sets.  I just haven't finished counting.  

In Florida, SB 736 mandates that every student including those in kindergarten starting next year will be tested in every single subject including their once-a-week media center class if a certified instructor is teaching it. This law is part of the revised teacher evaluation system. I am afraid to begin counting the cumulative number of tests that a child entering Florida public schools in fall 2014 will encounter. 

In the upcoming weeks, every single student, 2,990 at my school, will take one or more high-stakes test as we truly dive into what was formally known as the fourth nine weeks. Most students, depending on their schedule, will lose more than a week of instruction to testing this year.  The most school-dependent such as my English language learners in tenth grade have already lost 5 weeks of instruction due to testing.  As an educator, I cannot rely on unions to do right by my students. As a parent, I cannot rely on the school system to do right by my child. As a citizen, I cannot rely on the legislators to do right by the American school system. I can use my words.  I must use my words.  What will you do?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Haiku for Spring

Blue pools beckon jump 
beating sun blistered skin
Escape, float, splash cool.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Poetry Percent

It is National Poetry Month coming up and we have our high school's annual Poetry Slam produced by my colleague and friend Lee Ann Spillane and the Poetry Club. My grand plan as reading coach is to set up Friday lunch poetry workshops featuring opportunities to craft book spine poems, blackout poems and more.  I also revisiting my favorite poets' (Sara Holbrook & Michael Salinger) professional books, Practical Poetry, High Definition, and Outspoken, this week to pull together what we will do on the other Fridays. Most days in April I will be proctoring the over 2000 reading tests and then the other EOC and AP exams so these Fridays will be an oasis for me. I am also eagerly awaiting my copy of High Impact, their most recent work.

Here is my percent poem inspired by Practical Poetry.

100% Me: Before Hope & LADA

25% Teacher
25% Frisbee
0% Blonde Creature
5% Ice Cream
20% Reader
2% Dream
10% Gym Rat
10% Research
0% Doormat
3% Swimmer

To sum it up, you will see
equals 100% me.

100% Me Now

20%  Coach
  1% Professor without reproach
   5%  Ultimate
20%     Reader, consumate
    .005%  Runner
  2% LADA stunner
10% Gladiator
  4% Friend, mediator
  5% Camper
.995% Chip Monster sampler
30%  Mom & family things
  2% Mermaid of the springs

To sum it up, you will see
equals 100% me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


My English education students at UCF, they are blogging this semester. I have been truly trying to mirror the work that I would ask of my high school students. They are reading a second professional book of their choice.  You can check their responses out here:

This poem was inspired by a website that one of my students, Caty, shared in her discovery of resources while reading Adolscents on the Edge by Jimmy Santiago Baca and Releah Cossent Lent.

Check out:


a poem by Beth

I am addicted.

I am addicted to reading

In my addiction, my life is filled with story

In my addiction, I am glad to escape

I am addicted.

I am addicted to reading

In my addiction, I hate to think about when I turn the last page.

In my addiction, the real me becomes the character.

I am addicted.

I am addicted to reading.

In my addiction, betrayal comes in the form of my favorite character dying.

In my addiction, I struggle to let go of the end.

I am addicted.

I am addicted to reading.

In my addiction, I am hiding my purchases from my husband.

In my addiction, I’m in a constant battle with falling in love with yet another.

I am addicted.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wanted: Exercise

The mentor text that inspired my writing tonight is from Kathleen Cushman's Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers From High School Students. There is a Want Ad for teachers in there crafted by student writers. I've written about many different topics. After a great workout, this want ad seems fitting. 

                                              WANTED: A Routine Workout

Must inspire the desire even when tired. Must be engaging. Must fit into my schedule. Must pass by quickly. Must be intense. Must be accessible. Must not take too much equipment. Must build my cardiovascular endurance. Must make me sweat. Must increase my muscle strength. Must improve my flexibility. Must help me maintain my blood glucose levels. Must tolerate intermittent blood glucose checks. Must not harm me. Must strengthen me for ultimate. Must decrease my insulin use.  Must challenge all. Must not judge. Must gently push.  Must celebrate small victories. 

Thank goodness I've actually found this with my Camp Gladiator family. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Summer Plans?

Have you started to think about your summer plans yet? Today I just made some. I know that I will be working, but  I always must escape to the woods to completely disconnect.  I just made some plans to head to Elkmont in the Smoky Mountain NP.  I camp almost every summer with my family and some friends. In Elkmont there is no cell phone access, no wifi, and definitely no screen time.  We laze in our hammocks and read.  We hike, raft, and float.  When I play my cards right or plan well in advance, we get the tent sites that back up to a small stream and are off the road.  It makes a great play area for my daughter.  I was able to secure those sites today. Yeah!

I am also contemplating going to the Friends for Life conference for my personal learning and I know that I will spend weekdays spring hopping, soaking in the icy blue springs under the shade of live oaks finding relief from the hot Florida sun.

What do you like to do during the summer?


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Digital Writing Workshop Post 1

How fitting is it that I post my professional reading response to Troy Hicks' book, The Digital Writing Workshop during the Slice of Life Challenge which transformed my writing life and my teaching of writing.  I will be posting about this book in 4 sections as part of my work with my English education students in the Teaching Writing in Secondary Schools that I facilitate at the University of Central Florida.  They are blogging weekly as part of our work together to learn about digital writing firsthand.  I have read a few books about digital writing, but Hicks' work is the just right book for me right now as I consider where to go next to nurture digital writers and future teachers of digital writers.

Hicks opens chapter one by contextualizing the work and defining writing workshop. What resonates with me is that Hicks acknowledges the work of others from Donald Graves and Donald Murray to Ralph Fletcher and Penny Kittle. There is a history or a lineage of how teachers of writing got to where we are now.  I hate it when educators do not acknowledge that in their work.  We are resting on the shoulders of not only giants, but also on all the teachers in our profession who work continuously to refine their craft in the best interests of their students. He also establishes his definition of writing workshop which includes student choice about topic and genre, active revision, author's craft as a basis of writing instruction, publication beyond classroom walls, and a broad vision of assessment. 

Chapter two examines the use of RSS feeds, social bookmarking, and blogging as ways to foster student choice and inquiry. Some highlights are listed below.

Golden Lines

"Teach the writer, not the writing." P. 7
" I am only one step ahead of those with whom I work." P. 14
"Drafts could be posted to a blog or wiki, while final drafts could be submitted as email attachments." P.17

Use an RSS feed for SSR and inquiry driven research
Use social bookmarking to support inquiry and collaboration
Blogs as the new writer's notebook even keeping it private 




How will a totally digital inquiry project work with actual students? 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Short-term Goals

Spring break is here! It is important to set some short-term goals.

1. Finish taxes 
2. Read, write & exercise every day
3. Develop model lesson plan
4. Learn how to set up disqus on tumblr and make screencast
5. Make an infographic
6. Scan old photos
7. Organize files
8. Clean Hope's room
9. Hang out with friends
10. Sleep in
11. Paint toenails

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Making Change

As I've shared earlier this month, I am not only blogging as part of the Slice challenge this month but also participating in a nutrition challenge.  Three years ago, writing every day was a change. Now I've got it, it's routine. I know I can do it, I've done it twice. Change is hard, for many different reasons. I've sharing some of my thoughts and learning from Switch: How to Make Change When Change is Hard, a book I loved both personally and professionally.

The research that resonated with me was the finding that "self-control is an exhaustible resource." (Heath & Heath 10). Students and humans run out of self control which is why your students in 7th period are out-of-control or you find yourself mindlessly eating at night.   According to Heath, people vacillate on a continuum between supervised behavior and automaticity which is what makes change so hard because when people try to change things, they’re usually tinkering with behaviors that have become automatic. Making change therefore is exhausting.  Heath also found that the bigger the change, the more  it will sap people’s self-control. Therefore when people make change, they literally are wearing themselves out. People perceive this exhaustion as laziness or attribute to something else.  I don't offer this as a reason to give up, but more so as a reason to be more gentle or forgiving with yourself as you try to make changes In your personal or professional life,  In this age of great educational change, you will feel more exhausted and your colleagues will as well as our students. It pays to be aware of the physiological effects of change.  Our personal resources are finite. So how can we change? 

To truly change behavior, we have to create action triggers. For example, instead of having students write down the homework, have them write down where and when they will do it.  The specificity in the action matters no matter whether you are working out, studying or eating.  As part of my nutrition challenge, we must post on our Facebook group, record our food & water intake daily on My Fitness Pal, and attend a certain number of workouts. I record each step nightly at the same time. That is my specific step, not only the what, but the where. 

I have pages and pages of notes from this book, but I wanted to write about this part tonight, because we are losing a little momentum in week 3 of our nutrition challenge, but we've actually made several changes and should be proud of the work we've done. As should you too, if you are blogging each day and that's not your regular routine, because change is hard.  

Making Change

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Break Reading Recommendations

Spring Break is in the air. Hopefully you are taking time for yourself. Perhaps some reading time? Here is a list of my favorite grown-up reads. I read widely and love YA, but sometimes take a break. 

10. Wife 22-fiction, exploring love and social media
9. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter- history and vampires- presented plausibly 
8. Wolf Hall- historical fiction, life and times of Cromwell
7. The Chaperon-historical fiction set in the Twenties with a unanticipated twist 
6. The Power of Habit-nonfiction where the personal and profession combine
5. Half Broke Horses- nonfiction vignettes reminiscent of a different time
4. Lay That Trumpet Down in Their Hands-historical fiction set around a real Florida civil rights murder
3.  Garden Spell by Sarah Addison Allen- magical realism set in NC 
2. When She Woke-- science fiction, a blend of theThe Handmaid's Tale and The Scarlet Letter, but better
1. A Discovery of Witches- magic, history & science best grownup fantasy 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Taking Care

I'll admit I don't always do the right thing for me.  Other people and tasks often get in the way, but today I consider myself lucky to put behind the papers that were calling my name and go work out.I feel great now and I felt great the entire time.  I have avoided working out on Tuesdays because they are typically leg days. If you've read my blog, you know about my ACL tear 10 months ago. If this is your first visit, you now know.

On April 22, I can begin jumping and sprinting. In May contact sports aka ultimate frisbee is a yes. I will do my first run\walk in a few weeks at my school. I will do a second one month later.   I will, however, take it slow.  Two weeks ago I pushed myself hard.  I worked out 6 days in a row. That matters to me diabetically as it reduces the amount of insulin I intake by at least 10 units a day, easier on the body and the wallet.  My knee took the beating though. It hurt. It told me to stop. I listened. I rested. I was lucky.

I know, St. Patrick's Day was yesterday, but what kind of weird wonderful is it that I consider myself lucky today to do crunches and gaze up into the canopy of trees with their new green leaves .Lucky to run around the park and listen to the crack of the softball bat and cheers of the crowd.  Lucky to do real lunges for the first time in several months without pain.  Warming up, taking it slow, and listening to myself are the way for to go.  Those right now are the right things for me.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wrestling with Teacher Change

We have been transitioning to the Marzano Instructional Framework for the past three years. It hasn't been easy. Our conceptual understanding of the components have been evolving, but it has been challenging since the scores derived from it are part of our teacher evaluation system. I am reminded of the airplane commercial that shows the people building the plane while it is up in the air flying with passengers. Of course, the FAA would never allow it, but the DOE does? We are the experiment! You can't fly the plane while building it. Even though, they are already doing it in Europe, I will have to wait 2-3 years more until the Animas Vibe passes FDA approval in order to use it to treat my chronic disease. In education, however, there is no FAA, IRB or FDA to protect my students, my daughter or me. We will have to wait for ten years to see the results of of this educational experiment. 

What I know for sure is that I don't think that another face-to-face workshop or online class will help teachers get there. To really push forward we need an infrastructure change and a change in our mindset. We can't change the infrastructure, but we can control how we interact with our colleagues. We can't do it alone.  Each day I become more firmly convinced of that.  We need leaders who recognize the time it takes to make a change. We need models who can muddle through messiness of teaching. We need side-by-side coaching in our classrooms. We need someone to ask the hard questions. We need to watch and learn from each other. We need to plan thoughtfully together each of our strengths lifting one another. We need each other.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Florida Gem

I was born in Florida and I live in Orlando. That posits me for day trips to amazing places that tourists may not schedule for their visit. Yesterday was one such glorious day.  We trekked to Sarasota to spend the day at the Ringling Museum of Art.  The sixty-six acre museum was bequeathed to the state of Florida in 1936.  It is a space for everyone young and old alike to wonder.

Talk about imagination, creativity and risk-taking.    The circus brought imagination to small towns.  I loved the line from Emily Dickinson that was posted in the exhibit. It read, "Friday, I tasted life. It was a vast morsel. A circus passed the house."  Saturday, we tasted life as we went behind the curtain of the circus and all that was Ringling.  It is hard to imagine the scale of the circus that time when all set up was done by hand and travel by trains.  The scale of the circus in its heyday speaks of 4000 meals served daily to staff on china. No dishwashers.

We enjoyed the 22 art galleries.  The art hailed from the Renaissance and later.  We introduced our daughter to Rubens and El Greco. She was attracted to art in which she could identify Greek mythology.  I loved being able to identify artists and their works from my past art history classes. My husband wanted more modern art, but enjoyed the furniture---the woodwork  Despite being broke at this death, Ringling never gave up his art collection and we are his beneficiaries.

The art that spoke to me most and I am still thinking about was the art of R. Luke DuBois.  His multimedia art captivated me. As a wordsmith I am still thinking about the glyphs from the Hindsight is always 20/20 installation which was part of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  He created eye charts based on the 66 most recurring words from presidential inauguration speeches and it is a history lesson.

Spring was abloom and that reflected in the flowering spaces. Giant banyan trees provided shade.  Frantic set-up for a wedding did not curtail our fun. My daughter and nephews delighted from the recently installed artful playground with basket swings and slide.

We closed the day with sunset celebration on the beach.  Florida is one such place where you can watch the sunrise and sunset coast-to-coast.  I actually want to do that one day.  But yesterday we were privileged to enjoy sunset celebration (coined by my aunt) on Longboat Key.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Celebrate Spring Forward

1. Spring forward! I bask in the advent of evening light.
2. My teacher friends who inspire me.
3. The 800ish ninth graders at my school who were respectful and enthusiastic although the subject wasn't anything to be excited about.
4. Filling out My Fitness Pal log for 19 straight days---it's almost a habit.
5. My future teacher students---their curiosity and enthusiasm always bring me hope.
6. The luxury to take a nap in the middle of the week.
7. A day trip to Sarasota to explore the Ringling museum with my family.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Day Trip

What would happen if I didn't post today? It's been hard this week to write. My energy isn't there. My Inspiration is flagging.  I do know that just sitting down and writing is the work I need to do.  Real writers don't write only when they are inspired. Real writers write every day and it's hard. The words aren't always within reach.

I am looking looking forward to a day trip tomorrow to the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. My husband and daughter will bring their sketchbook. I will bring my camera and journal. I will find inspiration. I will find beauty. I will find solace spending time with the family. In Orlando, I am at the epicenter of the state.  Although many may come here for obvious reasons such as Disney, I love being in the middle and not far from amazing spaces to visit. I find solace in the natural beauty and the less traveled spaces. I find inspiration there. The trick to being a writer is to not only find it in the everyday ordinary things but also seek those places and spaces that help you resee the world and find the word.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring Break A-Z

It doesn't start until next Friday, but a little planning ahead is a welcome distraction.

A: Active
B: Beach
C: Class
D: Delight
E: Exercise 
F: Frisbee
G: Garage sale
H: Haircut
I: Icy drinks
J: Jumpstart
K: Kite
L: Laughter
M: Massage
N: Nails
O: Outside
P: Pool
Q: Quiet
R: Read
S: Spring hop
T: Taxes
U: Unaccerlerated
V: Visit
W: Write
X: eXtra time
Y: YaY
Z: Zzzzzzz

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Second Job

Tonight I worked until 9. I have worked until 9 once a week since the Fall of 2006. I adjunct. I also used to teach two online classes for our school district. I did this for the past ten years and resigned in December. I coached track, volleyball, cheerleading, and flag football during my first ten years of teaching.  I taught summer school one summer. I have worked as a consultant during the summer teaching teachers.  I have worked many hours to supplement my income.  In every job that I have held, however,  I have become more informed about myself as a teacher. But I have never solely taught, never solely focused on the teaching of just the students I had assigned to me during the day. One teacher I spoke to the other day said that he would be bored doing just that.  I haven't missed the jobs that I quit. I can easily find plenty other activities to do, but I know just teaching would keep me extremely busy. But I am wondering about the other jobs teachers have done to supplement their income? What salary would it take for you to be compensated well and just teach? What trade-off do we make when we work more than one job outside of teaching?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Celebrating Success

One issue which I have struggled with since the inception of the Marzano evaluation system in our district is the authentic celebration of student success. Part of this struggle was the lack of professional development surrounding the 41 Marzano elements in our district.  The other piece was the question how do you showcase or plan for that specific element to be observable in a meaningful way when administrators drop by.  You had to feature celebrating student success that first year because it was one of three elements that were being scored.

What developed from this determination to feature this element in my classroom and others was a high-five sporting celebration.  Some teachers developed a special celebration routine such as the fire cracker clap. It was off-putting to me because I reserve high-fives for the field.  My academic life was different from sporting life. In my classroom we charted our books read and hosted a reading celebration. We published a class anthology and celebrated our writing. We celebrated in ways that made sense in our academic community. On the field we charted personal bests and chanted, screamed, and cheered loudly. It seemed out-of-place in my classroom. Yet I do admit I've learned much about teaching from my work coaching track, volleyball, flag football, and cheer leading (the subject of another blog).

I was also influenced early in my career by Alfie Kohn's Punished By Rewards. Daniel Pink's Drive provides further insight into motivation as well and continues to hone my instructional thinking about  rewards. My challenge has been, like many other teachers, how to develop readers and writers who are internally motivated. I give erasers to my students because they need them, not because they won them. I don't like to give food rewards, but having food available to hungry students makes a difference. Also as adults we know the power of chocolate.

After three years of reading, practicing and sharpening my understanding of the implementation of the elements, I finally nailed it this past month during my formal evaluation without even trying to actually do so. As reading coach, I've spent the past month working in two tenth grade ELL classes teaching writing.  Due to the range of writers, many beginners, progress happens in tiny incremental steps each day. Sometimes invisible to the untrained eye or ear, especially to these students who struggle all day. I created an expert chart as a way to show kids who they can really rely upon when they need help during our small group writing time. It's colored-coded so I can keep track of when kids first demonstrated mastery of the skill.

Kids look at what we post on the walls. Kids look for their names. As my principal later shared, every single student sat up a little straighter in their seats that day. It built classroom community and immediate confidence in their new group members' value.  It also gave students the confidence that writers in the room, not in books and not the teacher were accomplished and could show them how.   Just this simple acknowledgement of these students honored their progress toward the writing goal and celebrated their success authentically.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Daylight Savings Time

I love daylight savings time. I don't like the jump forward so much, but I love the extra daylight which means more time for me to play. Daylight savings time is a good reminder to refresh our update things such as the batteries in your smoke detectors or in my case, the sharp in my lancet. Daylight saving is also a great push to get you out in your yard and plant or play.   My co-workers hate the idea of heading to work at literally dark-thirty, I don't. I feel more productive in the sunny afternoon and eve.  It is, however, a danger for the high school students in my district who have to be at school by 7:20.

This switch is always a scary proposition as they wait at unlit bus stops or walk or ride the dark streets to school.   My high school is literally surrounded by a swamp that eats light. Two things I can always be assured of, it will be much colder at work and it will be darker. The advent of the cell phone is actually a savior in this daylight savings time switch since I can actually identify the teens loitering at their teacher's door their phone gleaming like the tiniest star.  I am not sure what would happen scientifically if we stopped participating in this process, but I do know that toward the end of the week my students, co-workers, and I will feel it most keenly. I will, however, bask in the sunlight tonight as I do my workout.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Club: A Decade of Meeting

Tonight was book club. I realized this month that I have been meeting with this book club for ten years.  My daughter was 6 months old when this book club started. She is now 10. Sometimes an unofficial member.  Last month she came and sat at the table with us rather than reading unobtrusively in the corner as she usually does.  It was for the stories as she shared with me later.

Book club is made up of teacher friends and ultimate friends. We range in age from the seventies to the twenties. We contract and expand, but we have our core. We don't have rules. We want you to come even if you haven't read the book. All of these years what has mattered most is the sharing of life and loss. The books come and go. Some are worth talking about. Some not. I am not sure where we will all be in another decade, but this month we'll be reading The Sound of Wild Snails Eating.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Celebrating Small Victories

1. Working out more consistently:  I was able to work out six out of seven days this week, a personal best since my ACL tear last May.  My level of activity significantly decreased after surgery.  I have been on the upswing since being release from physical therapy and this week reached  the number of days that I used to workout pre-injury. Win.

2.  Making personal gains: During my fitness post-assessment on Wednesday, I exceeded my pre-test numbers.  My knee is steadily gaining strength although I can't jump or sprint until April 22, 2014, but who is counting? Win.

3. Reactivating the  Bear Fit Club:  We have been on quite a hiatus since my injury. Instead of Happy Hour, we walk and eventually power up to running on Fridays after school. We walk through the neighborhood where many of our students live. We wander by softball, flag football, tennis, baseball, track, and lacrosse practices and games. We see our kids and cheer them on. They see us and cheer us also. A wonderful way to close the week. We will expand our 3 miles to 5 and by June delight in the wild blackberries that pop up in the park that borders our school. Yesterday we saw two gold finches. Many wins.

4. Bod pod testing: Yes, I am overweight, but I have more muscle than you think and now I know for sure. It's just data to add to all of my data. But the cumulative qualitative and quantitative data are helping me move forward and holding me more accountable. Win?

5.  Increasing my water intake:  I've stopped drinking soda, but I haven't been drinking the water that is needed.  On weekends I make a pitcher of spa water.  I have been more careful to carry that attention to my water this work week thereby increasing my water in-take. I still haven't hit my designated ounces, but move closer each day. A win.

6. Managing my lows:   Diet and workout changes wreck havoc on my basal rates. I have been working out more and paying better attention to my food and water choices. Consequently an increase of lows.  I have to manage these lows well until I figure out the patterns to make the necessary changes. Typically, I panic and over-treat, but I have been staying calm and patient and making better choices. Win.

7.  Working out despite not feeling it:  I stole the last three words from the reluctant reader that I conferred with Friday. He told me that  he wasn't reading that day or most days because he "wasn't feeling it."  I told him the secret the difference between being a young adult and a child.  As a young adult you are learning how to do what you need to do although you are not "feeling it."  Thursday night, I felt the same way about working out. A cold front was coming in.  It was rainy. It was cold. I wasn't feeling energetic. I went to work out anyway. It looked like I was going to be the only one there.  I didn't turn around and go home. I got out of my car and went to work.  Two other campers braved the elements too. We got it done and by the end we were feeling it, which is what hard work can do even when you aren't quite up to it.

Lots small victories to
celebrate and be thankful for this week.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bored? Games!

Although my dad passed away over 22 years ago, I can still hear him mockingly say, "Easy...easy"  reading the question to a Trivial Pursuit card. He really actually knew all the answers. I grew up playing games. Pick-up sticks endlessly in 5th grade. UNO, Battleship, Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, and never-ending games of Scrabble in college.

We have running High, Low, Jack card game in my family. Currently I am tied with my mom. In 2012 I ended up as the champ and sooner than later was dethroned.  I learned how to play when I was ten with my great-grandfather and grandparents. My daughter is not quite interested yet, but invariably she sits at my side  when we play at family gatherings. 

My daughter is currently obsessed with Charoodles.  My aunt indulged her once by playing it with her for two hours. It's a game she has been obsessed with for the past two years. I'm thankful for my family who willingly plays with her although we've used and memorized each and every one of the cards. At our gathering in October we made cards  We laughed and laughed as each person acted out the cards including my youngest Florida nephew who interspersed the downtime with magic tricks.

My brother-in -law and husband are always up for a round of Cranium Turbo with their mother-in-law, my mom. You never know what memory will be branded on your brain when we play, but it will always be surrounded by laughter.

At Christmas, jacks in my mother's stocking captured everyone's attention. After a 55-year hiatus from her jacks career, my mom dominated everyone with her signature inside-out handswipe move. Three generations huddled on the floor for hours trying to usurp the queen of jacks will be forever emblazoned on my brain.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to introducing my family to two new games, Would You Rather? courtesy of my sister and my personal favorite, Quiddler. What will continue to stick with me are the laughs, long after the games are put away.How will you spend time with your family this weekend. Bored? Perhaps a dose of games will do.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Parenting Woe!

My daughter had her Santa-wish fulfilled this past Christmas. She got an I-pod touch. She's ten. We talked long and hard about why she needed it. As a family we shared an I-pad and a desktop computer. She was adamant about wanting her own tech space.  She likes listening to audiobooks. Many kids listen to music and she will play an audiobook in her room instead as backnoise. She will even listen to a book over and over after she's finished reading and listening to the book. She has a huge personal library so access to books isn't the issue. For this and other reasons, she got one.

I thought an I-pod would allow her to fully utilize our library's phenomenal virtual resources including audiobooks, magazines, and the e-books. She has. Right now she is reading her I-pod in bed. I thought an I-pod would allow her to maintain a relationship with her cousins in New Zealand and other family members. It has. She Facetimes. She texts. The irony is that she can't text me due to my outdated  phone. She uses all the the web-enabled apps wherever there is free wifi. She is responsible. What I  did not anticipate was how this small tool would push her a little more to independence pushing the tech middle man, the mediator, me out.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

OLW: Well-Ordered

Last year I participated in the one litlle word project and it reinforced the idea that what we put our energy and attention into grows.  That is why the plants on my porch are dead. Seriously, the focus on one word has helped me make changes mentally and physically. My word brave helped my naivgate personal and professional challenges last year.

My one little word thisnyear is well. In January I focused on remaining well-grounded. I celebrated being well-loved and loving well in February devoting attention to my family.  My intention for March is to be well-ordered.  No, this is not where I turn over a new leaf and develop a compulsive cleaning disorder like the one afflicts my mom and her sisters yet seemly skipped my duaghter and I. Well-ordered is more about how I want to live my life. 

Living a well-ordered life means that I take the steps for self-care. Why is it that we abandon the most important components of self-care when life gets crazy? Although I think those crazy events happen to teach us valuable lessons about taking care.  After my fasting debacle two weeks ago, I found a place that can  do my bloodwork on Saturdays and made a decision to book my bloodwork appointment right after my endo visit rather than doing what I typically do which is make one two weeks before. I need to make create and manage systems that make my life well-ordered. 

As a person with a chronic disease order matters. Monitoring my blood sugar, monitoring my food choices, and scheduling my exercises are all choices that keep me well physiologically. They are part of the order needed in my life. Writing and participating in the SOLSC are components of that order.  Carving time to write is a finite step toward self-care. Work can consume us, but to remain well-ordered in spite of It all, makes all and ultimately one well.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Assessment or I'm Perpetually Behind!

My elbow is starting to hurt....too many hours on the computer today.  I spent most of the day chained to my chair on the computer developing an EOC assessment.  I have spent most of the afternoon and eve chained to my chair on the computer giving feedback to my college students' blog posts.  I just realized that to make it to the end of the semester with them I will have commented on over 380 posts.  This virtual feedback does not include the actual physical papers for this class nor their projects.  Yet as much as this literally pains me, yes,  my elbow really hurts, we know that the feedback loop matters.  (I'll confess too many injuries on the right side of my body from ultimate- dislocated elbow, shoulder, wrist pain me and I see a massage therapist regularly to keep the pain in check!).

I don't have much else to slice about!  I just wanted to post and get back to providing feedback for my students.  Check out our project here:  It was my work from the past two years from doing the Slice of Life Story Challenge that inspired me to craft a weekly blogging for all of my college students  this semester.  You never know where the work will lead you.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Harnessing Your Power

I've gone a little mad this month and am participating in two challenges, a wellness challenge and the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I can add the wellness challenge because I've made it through the SOLCS for two years.  I need to do this wellness challenge.  Two weeks ago I fasted the entire work day for blood work and discovered at the end of the day I didn't have my doctors' orders.  Talk about hating everyone and the world.  What it really came down to is the reality that one should NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, fast or deprive yourself of caffeine when you have chosen to work with teenagers as your profession. It's not healthy.  The next day I told my principal that what I hated most that day was the realization that while I was doing a good job of taking care of the work, I just wasn't able to take care of myself.  It is a problem I have. It is a problem with which I often wrestle.  I do better most times, but lately since my injury in July have not done such a good job.   My endo says celebrate the small victories, but when your A1C goes up an entire point and then drops a tenth of a point the victory is too small.  It is a signal that I have serious work to do and the wellness challenge is that work.

Saturday morning Gladiators!  Community Matters!
 It is relatively simple.  Eat appropriately and chart your food intake on My Fitness Pal, drink your water, get your sleep, post to our Facebook group, do Camp Gladiator 3xs per week and cardio at least 3xs per week. I have a checklist in which I monitor which steps I've actually accomplished.   I've actually survived week one and have four more weeks. It has been complicated and hard for me.  I am a type one diabetic and any changes to my diet or exercise have immediate scary consequences.  I had 4 lows in one day and I knew I had to readjust my basal aka the amount of insulin I receive hourly.  I don't normally do this. That is when I actually quit and go back to old habits. This time, I told myself,  I can do this.  I studied my data, made adjustments, and made it through the week.  Four more to go.

Both of the challenges that I am participating really work the same. You do the work as individual, but each individual is a member of a community that supports each other. We celebrate success and give each other feedback.  We write every day---either a log or a blog.  We do the hard work and find inspiration in each other.  Ultimately we rise to the challenge and harness the power of together.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mermaids, Manatees, and Memories, Oh My!

Mermaids!  What I love about Florida's winter are the mild sunny temperate days like yesterday when the air's temperature is slightly lower than the temperature of the spring water.  Weeki Wachee's spring water is always 74.5 degrees and we spent the day soaking like mermaids, watching mermaids, and a mermaid aka manatee swam close enough to touch.  We capped it off with an amazing dinner at Becky-Jacks surrounded by family.  My friend and fellow slicer Lee-Ann calls these pink-stone days and I add them as another chapter to my blue-spring memories.  

When people think of Florida, they are draw images of the beach in their head.  As a Florida native, I grew up close to the beach.  It wasn't until I moved to central Florida during college that I discovered the real beauty of Florida that is often encapsulated by the shade of live oaks, fresh water springs.  I have often written about the springs and my spring-hopping adventures here and yesterday was another day of spring adventure.  This time, my nephews discovered the joy that swimming in the fresh water springs bring as my daughter celebrated her tenth birthday.  

My daughter wanted to spend her birthday at Weeki Wachee State Park.  It is one of Florida's oldest theme parks which was purchased by the state.  During the summer kids delight in sliding into the water, but in the spring, the pool is often empty since the slides are closed.  This spring is wonderful for parents of smaller children as there is a gradual incline into the spring.  Older kids enjoy swimming out to the floating dock and jumping, diving, and flipping into the 16 feet of cold blue.  

This afternoon we were not only joined by our family, but a manatee as well.  People often mistake manatees for mermaids.  We enjoy watched her fill up and then were full of wonder as she meandered through the swimming area close enough to touch.  We didn't though. Human interaction with manatees is strictly forbidden.  We backed away slowly and watched discretely from a distance. She moved in the same easy manner that we were spending out day. No hurry!  It was magical.  

Once my nephews braved the cold, they too fell in love with the springs.  They want to go back.  We will. Although our pictures of the manatee didn't come out, that memory, the blue-spring, the sunlight, the splashes are always close in our hearts and heads.   

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Third Time's a Charm

The third time's a charm I think as I sit down at my desk to write my first post for my third year of participating in the Slice of Life writing challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.  So much has changed for me in a year. So much has changed for me since I first participated three years ago.  

The most significant change in my teaching life has been the way that I have integrated digital writing with my students.  Writing each day in the 2012 challenge encouraged me to co-design a two week challenge with ninth graders at my high school that school year.  In spring I built a digital writing project into my syllabus for graduate students; some elected to write alongside me in the 2013 March Slice of  Life challenge.  I integrated a blogging component for all of my students this spring in the Teaching Writing in Middle and High School course that I teach at UCF.  Through each adventure, I learn more about myself as a writer, a teacher of writing, and a digital navigator.

The first year that you do this, you wonder, can I really post each and every day?  Yes, you can and you will.  I think that ultimately becomes the quest for some the first time around.  I saw it in myself and I saw it in my graduate students last year.  It was hard, but we rose to the daily challenge and produced quality work. It wasn't' always easy.  The second thought is who is going to really read my blog?  That is the beautiful part of the challenge. People will read your blog.  You will be surprised at how much that means to you.  They might not always comment, but they will read your blog.  You will realize that readership matters.  You might check your stats, but the feedback you get each day will provide you with the power to write daily and finish the month.

You will delight in the comments of others.  You will find delight commenting on others because you will learn amazing things about them. In my classroom, the undiscovered poets, musicians, and voiceless found safety in the net.  They took even greater risks as writers. They shared their hidden talents and found strength in the bonds they created digitally.  Just as I do by participating in the Slice Challenge and my Diabetes for Social Media Advocacy group--- you will make bonds that transcend the walls of your home, your classroom, and your community.

You will grow as a writer.  You will find yourself allocating time to write and then still find yourself at the desk, writing away.  That is the danger in writing.  You will get better, your words will come to you more quickly, you will write more and longer than you intended too.  You will find inspiration in the words of others.  You will try techniques out.  Just by the habit of writing each day, you will find yourself getting better. Much like the daily reading habit we work to instill in our students, daily writing works the same.  What we put our time and attention upon, blooms as your writing will this month.  

Despite what happens this month, we will be able to post each day.  It will be hard. It will be challenging. It will be done.  We will find the time and the words will come to us. We
will be changed.