Saturday, February 26, 2011

Motivated, Inspired and Confirmed

Wow! I haven't blogged in a very long time. I guess life just got in the way!

I just have to write about my amazing experience today, though. I have been a member of the Dublin Literacy Conference committee for the last 6 years and every year, I am in awe of what a few determined teachers, administrators, students, and custodians can do as a team.

I read Readacide by Kelly Gallager on the plane on my way to visit my parents. Although I had much on my mind (my dad's health has been declining...), I was in the "FLOW" by page 2. I devoured the book and couldn't wait to share it with my friends at school. It motivated me to continue to put engaging books in kids hands. It also confirmed what I believe...that the testing is hurting kids. Kelly was the keynote speaker this year. He was calm, cool and collected. He delivered a message that we all needed to hear. It was AWESOME!

I had the pleasure of being professional author and teacher, Patrick Allen's hostess for the day as well. I attended his two powerful presentations on Conferring with kids. He reminded us all that conferring is about the reader, not the reading.

I also squeezed in a session with Mary Lee from A Year of Reading. When Mary Lee talks about books, I melt. I want to run out and purchase them all! I am always inspired by her wealth and depth of knowledge about children's literature.

I have to run! I have a dinner date with Kelly, Patrick, Mary Lee and many more! I feel blessed to live and teach in Dublin!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Red Thread

My learning journey has diverged.  It has a little to do with technology, some to do with reading and writing.  Mostly, it's about something that has changed my family's lives, my perspective, my writing and musings, celebrating the small moments, and making a difference.

I have big news...we will soon be a family of FIVE!!!  No, I'm not pregnant.  We are adopting an Eastern European princess.  She has chestnut hair, chocolate eyes, she turned 3 this month,  and is chromosomally enhanced.  She has Down syndrome and was most likely given up at birth because of her diagnosis.

On the last day of school  my RED THREAD journey began and would continue over the summer months until we committed to adoption the day before school began:)  Before I began writing our story, I found this quote:  "An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break." - Chinese proverb.  Then, I learned that it was a book, and immediately bought it as a keepsake for our journey.  I've used this book many times when I've been asked to speak about our story.  It's touching, the illustrations breathtaking, and every soul, young and old, can understand the message.  Even if you are not adopting, the Red Thread message is for all life experiences.  We are all connected some way, somehow.
 I've read  many books on adoption, orphans, and Down syndrome.  Mostly, my heart has been captivated by the community of bloggers advocating, celebrating, and sharing their world through a different "lens" than you or I.  Because so many stepped out of their comfort zone to write, other lives are being changed.  More and more are learning about Down syndrome and stepping out in faith to adopt a special needs child.   This network has reached out to us across the globe.  Once the beginning of our story was written, we've received an outpouring of thoughts, kind words, promises of conversations to come, and the knowledge that all we need to do is send out an SOS email, and we'll have a plethora of responses.  So much love, so much joy, so much celebration!!

I've learned more about Facebook, but needed to stop Twitter.  My focus has mostly been writing our story on our family blog, continually tracking down important papers, and preparing our home for our new arrival, all the while continuing with my "school" work.  We've been busy, blessed, and these last two months have gone by in a blur. 

We are all on learning journeys.  Some continue on a straight path. Some diverge.  Some take on a whole different journey.  Our mission is to  travel a path, one foot in front of the other, going forward.  We all have the need to learn something.

Our threads may stretch, tangle, weave, but they will never, ever break.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Broken Shells

My time to read is limited, so I grab non-fiction books as my genre of choice during the school year.  I picked up at copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children with Special Needs at the library and have enjoyed reading some short excerpts through the family's lenses about their children.

    A mother and her 4-year old were collecting shells one summer at the beach.  She was meticulously searching out whole, complete shells to place in her bucket, while her son was picking up many broken ones so his bucket was starting to fill up.  When she looked in the bucket, all she saw were bits, pieces, and fragments of broken shells.    She stopped him and said, "Will, all your shells are broken and no good.  You need to find shells like this," and showed him a complete, whole shell.  Will looked, but continue to pick up one broken shell after another. 

    She stopped him again, with a frustrated tone in her voice.  "Why are you picking up shells that are broken?"  Will replied the only, honest way he could, "Mom, there are way more broken ones on the beach than perfect ones.  We'll fill up our bucket faster with the broken shells."  His mom thought, Okay but who wants a bucket of broken shells?  "Mom, these shells are broken, but they are still beautiful," and proceeded to point out something beautiful on each broken shell in his bucket.  His mother was taught the most valuable lesson that sunny, afternoon.

    We are all broken in some way, but possess beauty and uniqueness beyond belief.  If we take time to look closely at the broken shells, we can see beauty in their imperfections. 
    Debbie Jaskot

Monday, October 11, 2010

Writing In The Outdoors

During an informal conversation with a parent, I learned that she and her friend began a writing workshop event for kids 2-5th grade at her farm on the weekends.  Off the fly, I asked her if she'd like to come and do a mini-workshop for our class before the cold, long, dark winter!!:(  Of course, she said.  So, we worked out logistics, what was needed, and we anticipated for the day.  (So thankful it was today and not last weekend, when we got a taste of the winter to come!!)

We made nature journals and fabulatized them, had conversations of descriptive words and adjectives, and finally today was the day.  I was so thankful for the 80 degree weather!!:)  The ladies created 9 different stations outside to use our senses when we thought about fictional and personal narratives.  The kids had soooo much fun.  There was sand and shells, tasting table, caterpillars, mud pies, woods and many opportunities to explore, write, and sketch.

After exploring, we all found a spot on the grass and wrote.  We wrote poems, thoughts, feelings...the point is we wrote.  Then, we explored, and we wrote.   What a fabulous day!!!  They offered to come back and create another day in winter.  What a blessing to have parents willing to share their passions.  
We are all one with nature!!  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I have a Voice...

My family walked in our first Buddy Walk, promoting acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.  Throughout the walk around Crew Stadium, this gallery was played on the big screen.  We all have a voice...Celebrating Down syndrome Awareness Month!!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Big Elephant in the Room


One day I was in a panic, looking for a book on responsibility.  I had 5 minutes before I needed to pick up my kids, and traveled to one of my favorite first grade friends' room.  My friend, Patty, was gracious enough to look through her bins and gave me 3 "possible"  books for my need.  The first two were a little primary, but the last one would work.
The Big Elephant in The Room was PERFECT!!!!  It's written by Lane Smith, who is known for his subtle humor, with a deeper message.  The two characters are having a "conversation" about the big elephant in the room. You and I know it could be an issue that is "in the room", but noone is talking about it.  One of the characters is questioning all his previous "acts" that were self-centered and not at all like a responsible individual:-(  There is a literal ending at the end, which brings it all together.  But, fourth graders get the hidden message.

    I was in need of some heart-to-heart talks with my class.  We all were "talking the talk", but weren't "walking the walk!"  We opened up about the "elephants" in our room that were hindering our learning and working together.  Our discussion branched into other avenues that I did not even know were happening:(  All in all, it was the perfect book to bring all our issues out on the "table" and discuss ways to improve our classroom.  I've seen much improvement in our classroom attitude.    I'm going to reread this book every month to continue working on ways to make our classroom better than the month before.  I ended up ordering the book last week, and shared it with another colleague.  The same conversations took place in her room and she was amazed:)
I LOVE picture books:)!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

My First Two Weeks

These are the my Top Five things I am most proud of in my first two weeks of school:

    1.  I am moving agonizingly slow, but am seeing the benefits from my classroom community.  I have put blinders around me so that I don't start getting anxious when others are "testing" over material and I'm not halfway through.

    2.  My Morning and Closing Meetings are ROCKIN' the house.  We pass a stone so that whoever has the stone, has the voice.  We begin the day sharing and end the day sharing.  At 3:15, we pack up and sit in a circle celebrating something from our day.  For the first time in "many" years, the end of the day is filled with joy, not madness.  Today, we began Poetry Friday.  I had my students come to the Morning Meeting and we went around the room reading a poem.  I forgot to pass the stone.  One of my students said, "Mrs. Archer, we didn't have a morning meeting."  I, then realized that my class is recognizing our daily routine, even when I forget.

    3.  Over a 5 minute conversation at recess, a fellow colleague and I came up with an idea, wrote it up at lunch, was approved by our principal, and shared with our parents at Curriculum Night.  I LOVE being self-contained!!!!  I LOVE my math workshop, my reading workshop, and my creation station!!! But, I can take or leave the content areas.  My fellow colleague LOVES, LOVES, LOVES science, and I enjoy Social Studies.  We mapped out the year, so that our classes will switch monthly for Science and Social Studies.  It's going to benefit both of us, along with our kids.  But, the biggest reason it will work, is we are like-minded thinkers.  We both are very hands-on, project-oriented teachers and our philosophies mesh!!  What a ride it will be.  I shared with our class that we are the first at our school to try this, so we need to work diligently to pave the path for others.

    4.  I've been taking ideas from the Responsive  Classroom and making them my own.  Today, we talked about how once our words are out, we can't take them back.  Similar to crumpling up a piece of paper, you can never make it smooth again.    Sometimes saying "I'm Sorry" isn't enough.  Today, we started a list of Apologies of Action, things to do instead of saying I'm sorry.

    5.  I've made an impact on some of my "promising" students.  They are recognizing I accept them where they are, and will do anything to move them forward.

All in all, a good two weeks.  How have your first weeks gone?