Thursday, August 26, 2010

"I'm Not A Good Reader"

I've enjoyed the network of families that I've found since my children have begun elementary school.  I'm no longer in teacher mode, but mother mode when discussing our children together.  Addy has a very close friend who lives in the next neighborhood, so we invited their family over  for a Back To School cookout the night before the first day.

I love talking with Imogen because we are honest, we trade babysitting, and we have similar likes and dislikes.  Another bonus is that we both have husbands who travel extensively for work so we can identify easily with one another.  I recently wrote about A in a post Not Good Enough.  Tuesday evening, we were talking about our Meet The Teacher experiences and what she said hit home to me as a mother and a teacher.

A's teacher had a scavenger hunt going on when the children arrived.  Mrs. P began talking to A and showed her the clues.  A was taking her time reading, but Mrs. P kept telling her the words.  Imogen wanted to shout, "Stop telling her the words.  She'll get it.  She only needs time!" But, she didn't and then A said the words that break a mother's heart and my teacher heart..."I'm not a good reader!"  Here is a young second grader, whose parents have read with her and read to her since she was a baby.  Here is a girl who is loved by her family and they celebrate her big and small moments.  Her mom knows she will figure out the story, but it takes her longer.  She is 7 and already feels behind because she cannot read as fast as the kid next to her at school. 

My heart went out to the mom and I talked with her and gave her some Mom/teacher ideas.  Truly, A needs time like Leo the Late Bloomer, and be given the time to blossom.

So...I'm taking this story to heart and reminding myself daily that friends in my class need Time.  Time to blossom, time to feel accepted, time to learn.  As you are learning about your new students, remember they may need time to blossom this year. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday

I am always on the lookout for video clips to share with my class on inspiration and making a difference.  But, many of the sites are blocked, or I need to convert it at home to a file I can open at school.  The system's worked for me, but tedious. was shared by some guidance counselors at Leadership Academy.  I now have my one stop shopping for inspiration and the website is not blocked at school.  There are quotes, clips, good news, stories and more.  It's like the Hallmark of the feel good moment, and just as sappy!!  The world would be a better place if all the tv commercials and billboards were replaced with inspiration from this website.

This summer has been an awakening on many levels, and I'm heading back to school with a new sense of purpose.  I wrote earlier about a parent's plea for their child:   
Expect,  Don't Accept.
I found a clip for that very goal:  The Track Coach  Watch it and enjoy a feel good moment today!!!

"The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it."  Richard David Bach

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lessons in Life

Hello Blogging Friends!

It's me, Lisa. I am sorry I haven't contributed very much over the summer...ok and the spring, but I'm back. Just like you, I've been busy living life. Unlike my amazing, analytical, organized partner, Shelly, I do not have a list of any of my summer accomplishments. However, I do have a few stories that I think you might enjoy.

In July, I went on a cruise with my aging parents. It was such a blessing to spend an entire week with them on such a beautiful ship cruising the high seas. Although I experienced some difficult, heart-wrenching moments with my father, we saw some amazing sights and met some remarkable people.

James (Jim) Kennedy was one of those remarkable people! One evening, my parents and I were seated with Jim and his delightful wife, Bernie. We exchange the normal casualties: names, home, etc. From the moment we first met, I could tell Jim was a charmer. He was caring, sincere, and engaging. He took particular interest in my father who suffered a spinal cord injury 5 years ago and is confined to a wheelchair. As we talked, I started to put some pieces of the conversation together and realized that our new friend, Jim, was the former Director of NASA who had been introduced to the entire ship in the theater on our first night. Celebrity Cruise Lines offers an educational series for the cruisers and I was eating salmon with the key note speaker! How cool is that?

Honestly, I know very little about NASA or space. I was never a "Trekkie," and I suffered through all of my science courses in high school and college. However, I literally would go to the moon with this new friend of mine, Jim. Although I missed the first class of his series, after our dining experience, I was determined to attend the last two. The next "class" started at 10 pm. During his class, he showed amazing pictures taken in space and talked about his astronaut, political, and famous friends. Jim is a storyteller and I was mesmerized. He also covered many of the technical aspects of sending a rocket ship into space. At the end of his fascinating presentation, he announced that at his last session, he would be sharing with us: "Lessons in Life and Leadership (as inspired by stories of the Good Life at NASA). Now he was talking about my world!

Jim originally created this slide show to present to high school students. It has been so well received that now travels all over the country inspiring students, teachers, professional groups, and even "cruisers" like me. He has over 50 lessons that can be applicable to everyone. With each lesson, he tells a "real life" story. Here are just a few that struck a cord with me:

Lesson #5 Go the Extra Mile: Astronaut Suni Williams ran the 26.2 mile Boston Marathon in space! Jim told us how important it is for astronauts to exercise in space because they lose a percentage of muscle mass while in space. Not only did Suni run, she also made a huge impact on a little girl who shared her name.

Lesson #11 Have Courage in Your Convictions: Jim told us about a young man who saved the space program a huge amount of money by convincing NASA to use orange foam on a fuel tank.

Lesson #27 Teachers Rock! Jim told many stories about the impact that teachers have had on his life. He shared how devastating it was when the Challenger exploded and Christina McAuliffe and the other 6 astronauts died.

Jim Kennedy inspired me with his life lessons. He reminded me that what we do every day is important. Thanks to Jim, I am going to look for life lessons in every day events and share them with my family, friends and students. His final lesson #51: Have Fun, Learn and Get Inspired.

This school year, I am going to do just that! May the force be with you!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

10 for 10 Picture Book Blogging Event

Lisa and I decided to combine our Top 10 books. 

Lisa's Top 5...

1.  Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas:  Dust Bunnies make my students (of all ages) and me LAUGH!  The illustrations are simple and yet endearing.  The kids love the bunnies personalities, appreciate the humor. and ask to read it over and over again! 
2.  If I were in Charge of the World by Judith Viorst  Even though this book is OLD, I still love this charming collection of poems that eloquently describes the good. bad and the ugly days of childhood.  What not to like when one of the poems is titled something like this:  Thoughts of getting out of a nice warm bed on a cold dark night...followed by:  Maybe life was better when I used to be a wetter.  
3.  Life-Size Zoo by Teruyuki Komiya  There are three of these gems out now.  My "promising" readers many times shy away from nonfiction books because of the vocabulary.  However, these books are fascinating for children of all ages.  They are "SUPER-SIZED."  The real sized photographs are amazing and I find children love to read them together.  
4.  Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold  I am always looking for books that are readable for my students and yet are sophisticated enough to keep their interest.  The Fly Guy books meet these requirements.  Fly Guy is a HOOT!  The kids and I love the illustrations.  We have had a wonderful time creating our own Fly Guy books.  
    5.  Roscoe Riley Series by Katherine Applegate  First Grade student,  Roscoe Riley, starts every book off in Time Out.  What kid can't relate to that?  I love how the story is structured.  All of the books in the series start at the end and then the story unravels.  As an added bonus for my readers, some of the chapters are only 1 page long!  Even children who are older than Roscoe can see the humor in his many predicaments.   Kids beg to read them all...Now that is a good book series. 

Shelly's Top 5...

1.  Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney:  I enjoy beginning the year with this book because it shows how Miss Rumphius followed her passion and made a difference.  Throughout the stages of her life, she was thinking about her three goals:  to travel, to live by the sea, and to make a difference. 

2.  The Scaredy Squirrel series by Melanie Watt:  this series is enjoyed by every age group alike.  Whether intermediate or primary, kids are inspired by Scaredy Squirrel to write their own adventures.  I use it as a mentor text for text features such as diagrams, maps, and speech bubbles.  Some of the craziest narratives from my students were inspired by Scaredy Squirrel.

3.  We all Sing with the Same Voice by J.Phillip Miller: our first grade friends at school always do a program and end with this song.  It's catchy, the message hits home, and I find myself singing after I leave school.  We may look different, act different, but we all have a voice that needs to be heard.  I bought this book at the beginning of the summer, and can't wait to use it as a mentor text for celebrating diversity.

4.  Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller.  Another book for building community and classroom attitudes.

5.  Hope is an Open Heart by Lauren Thompson:  Other blogger friends wrote reviews on this book, so I ordered it.  I enjoyed the brilliant photos and inspiring messages.  But then, I was reading another professional book where it talked about having your students write out their hopes and dreams.  This book will become my mentor text for this project at the beginning, middle, and end of the year Hopes and Dreams lessons.

Lisa's top 5 took a broader spectrum than mine.  I'm deep into building my classroom community mode now, so my picks are about the beginning of school.  Thanks, Mandy and Cathy to not only hosting, but pushing us to think about our favorite picture books.  Check out the event at their two blogs!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Look what I found...

Earlier, I wrote about painting stones for my Morning and Closing meetings.  I found some stones by the railroad tracks, took them to school one evening, and painted them.  I got out  bright and soothing acrylic paints, and enjoyed my time thinking.  The stones looked okay, would serve the purpose, but I wasn't overly excited.

Today I ran into a fun, eclectic store in downtown Powell called Shyne Inc.  It's a jewelry and accessories store, and my neighbor had raved about it.  I looked around and saw some potential for later purchases and gifts, when hidden on a shelf were rocks EXACTLY like I wanted.  I thoughtfully chose these four because the words pack a powerful punch for sharing.  I LOVE these!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Expect, Don't Accept

 Most, if not all teachers, are beginning to get in "game mode".  We are thinking, planning, and mentally gearing up for that new group of young minds who will step through our threshold that first day of school.  Over the summer, I began reading family blogs of special needs children.  They were inspiring!  They celebrated what their child can do daily, and concentrated less on what they can't.  It didn't matter to them.  As with all my late night navigating on the internet, I navigated over to a site written by a special ed teacher, Beth, through the eyes of a parent, Hope for Elijah.   One post hit home with me as I'm getting my game face on...Expect, Don't Accept.   She writes with passion, with emotion, and with conviction that we, as teachers, need to see children as who they are.  Inspire and challenge children, and then you will see their potential.  I would also recommend reading the speech, Paul Daugherty wrote about his 19 year old daughter with Down Syndrome, "Expect, Don't Accept!"  It will get your school fires burning for sure!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

As the summer ends...

            I've been attending our district Leadership Academy these past few days, and was asked in one session to list an adjective that describes you at this moment...mine was PENSIVE.  I love the definition:  dreamily or wistfully thoughtful.  I can't remember when I first heard the word pensive, but relish the way it feels in my mouth when I say it and the way it sounds.  It describes my mood at the moment:  dreamily or wistfully thoughtful.  I'm pensive as I think about the summer we've enjoyed as a family, and the family that I will work to build in my classroom.  As I was reading other family blogs this evening, I decided to make a list of my summer accomplishments.  So here goes...

    1.  I learned how to BRAID.  My daughter has been wanting to have her hair braided for the longest time, so I made a deal with her that I would learn, but she would need to let me practice on her and be patient.  We got books from the library, and she practiced on her Barbies while I practiced on her.  So, now her hair can be braided in one or two braids.  French braiding is on the agenda for next summer!

    2.  I learned how to "Fabulatize" and "Fancify" our blogs.  Other blogs I visited had these adorable backgrounds, so I practiced and played to Fabulatize ours.  Sometimes I run into glitches, but I've learned how to problem-solve them.  I also have had fun matching fonts, colors, and gadgets.  I also learned how to embed youtube videos into blogs.

    3.  I took an online sign language class and learned about the history and pioneers of the deaf community.  I have figured out ways that I'm going to use some signs in the classroom to enhance my curriculum.

    4.  I created a family blog to celebrate the big and small moments of our family.  It's been a great tool for family members in other states and cities to catch up on our lives. It's been useful for my parents who only have learned to get on the internet, not use email or other networking tools available.  At least they've learned how to bookmark the site and read it!!

    5.  Facebook:  I created an account in January, but didn't do a lot with it because the site was too busy for me.  I wasn't able to navigate it properly.  This summer, I changed my profile picture, uploaded our beach photos from the photographer, and uploaded a video.  I'm working on it, but still feel like I'm lurking in one everyone's lives.

    6.  I used OneTrueMedia to create a photo montage, and upload it to facebook and blogs.  It"s what I call "Shellyproof" and simple.  I can see huge possibilities for me to use.

    7.  I read and have thought a lot of how I want to structure the first six weeks of school.  Our guidance counselor is going to a week of training by the Responsive Classroom to share with our staff.  I'm hopeful of good things to come.

    8.  I was able to disconnect from technology for 7 days and survived, so I know anything is possible!!! I've also cut way back on my caffeine...only 1 cup a day, not even Diet Coke.  I'm not certain the "new" me is as fun!!!

    9.  I learned some new tools to use with the Smartboard software.  I want to up my game and use it well in the upcoming year.

   10. I learned to create a sense of gratitude within myself.  I'm surrounded by a healthy, wonderful family.  My children are thriving, happy, and embrace life daily.  I am thankful for the past two months, where I could sit by the pool and watch my children celebrate new tricks they have worked on.   My husband makes me laugh and is always willing to listen to my "ideas"!!!  He processes and is honest about  his thoughts.  He takes my children on their back to school campout weekend by himself, so I can have a weekend of pampering!!  My parents and I are very close and I can call them on a moments notice to vent, celebrate, and cry if need be.  I am blessed with two dear friends who knew I needed the summer to renew and refresh, and gave me space to do just that.  They knew I would get back to where I needed to be, but needed to do it on my own terms.  Thank you!   I've seen random acts of kindness happen to my children this summer, and celebrated them.  I am choosing to live a life of gratitude, hopefulness, and love.

So I'm pensive...wistfully filled with an air of gratitude, celebration, and anticipation.